Central Sydney Ambulance Station concrete pour
The new Central Sydney Ambulance Station building site was a hive of activity for the first concrete pour on 12 October.

The sun was trying hard to shine through the clouds when the Sydney Ambulance Metropolitan Infrastructure Strategy (SAMIS) Project Team gathered at the Central Sydney Ambulance Station building site on 12 October.

The rain that threatened earlier in the day had stayed away and the first concrete pour at the site was underway.

Mixer trucks parked on the high side of the site pumped wet concrete continuously through an enormous hose held up by an overhead crane.

At the bottom of a deep pit the Kane Construction team directed the thick grey spray across an area the size of a small football field. Alongside them  other workers smoothed the concrete using long-handled screeds, while at the other end of the site a worker on a ride-on polisher zipped back and forth across the hardening surface.

SAMIS Program Manager Sonya Jackson and Manager, Assets & Infrastructure Ravi Gounder were excited and relieved.

“Only a few months ago this was like an Olympic-size swimming pool,” explained Sonya. “It’s so great that we’re at this crucial stage. The build should progress quickly from here.”

Despite the rain and the ripples of COVID-19 through the construction workforce and supply chains, NSW Ambulance’s newest Sydney Metro station
is on schedule for delivery in 2023.

The team from NSW Ambulance Assets & Infrastructure is flat out delivering dozens of new, rebuilt and refurbished stations across the state – and even more are on the way.

“Central Sydney Ambulance Station will be home to around 70 paramedics and operational managers, with 30 ambulance bays and three motorcycles  from the Motorcycle Response Unit and space for future growth in paramedic staffing,” said Sonya, while listing off other features like the Make Ready Service, internal wash bay and on site undercover staff parking.

With an official street address of 50 Arundel Street, Forest Lodge, and located just off Parramatta Road opposite the University of Sydney, Central Sydney Ambulance Station will be the hub of NSW Ambulance’s emergency response in the densely populated Sydney Zone covering the Inner City.

The Central Sydney building site was buzzing as mixer trucks drove in and out and the concreters spread the concrete across the vast site.

This huge project is just one of 70 projects, big and small, being delivered by the NSW Ambulance Assets & Infrastructure team during 2021/22.

Multiply this level of activity across the whole state and the scope certainly justifies the expression “building boom.”

The new build at Central Sydney will be the last of 11 new stations for the greater Sydney area funded under SAMIS.

While SAMIS has reshaped NSW Ambulance operations in metropolitan Sydney, the Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration (RAIR) program  has been transforming regional stations.

RAIR is the regional equivalent with 24 new or upgraded ambulance stations already delivered and another 30 underway in 2021-22 as part of a $232 million program.

At Forster on the Mid North Coast, RAIR Program Manager Tim Blake has been conducting what’s called ‘witness testing’ at the town’s new ambulance station.

“We’re making sure that critical building components such as the emergency power kicks in if there’s an outage, that the air con works efficiently and to design, as well as all the civil, hydraulic and fire detection systems are functional to the specification. We’re also looking for any general defects to fix before we move into the commissioning phase,” said Tim.

“To successfully manage a modern station, Assets & Infrastructure requires increasing amounts of facility data and systems knowledge which is  collected at this point.”

The rain is back – right on cue – to test out the bio-retention drainage system. The sparkling new ambulance bays remained dry throughout these  downpours.

Forster is on track for commissioning by the end of the year, along with the stations at Tumut and Medowie.

New or rebuilt stations at Casino, Coffs Harbour, Lake Cathie, Tamworth and Woy Woy are all expected to come online in the first half of 2023, and closely followed by the new station at Fairy Meadow and the rebuilding of Glen Innes by late 2023.

But that’s not all.

“As well as the new builds and rebuilds we also have refurbishments,” explained Manager of Assets & Infrastructure, Ravi Gounder.

Two kinds of refurbishments, in fact.  

Refurbishments under RAIR of which there are 18 sites from Armidale to West Wyalong that are all scheduled to be completed by late 2022; and
refurbishments under the NSW Ambulance Capital Minor Works program of which there are major projects on 22 sites from Ballina to Ulladulla.

So who oversees all this work? Within NSW Ambulance that falls to a team of around six people in the Assets & Infrastructure team.

“We work closely with Health Infrastructure, our IT team, our Fleet, Equipment and Uniform Unit team and our contracted builders to coordinate all the things that go into commissioning a station, but there’s also a lot of travelling for signing off contractual milestones, witness testing and commissioning.”

“The Assets & Infrastructure team probably end up visiting each major build site three or four times in the life cycle of the project – so we do spend a lot of time on the road.”

“Then there’s the funding submissions and the full tender program we do to award contracts, managing the design process and working with the various
internal and external stakeholders.”

Assets & Infrastructure Director Peter Elliott is full of praise for his multi-tasking team who work across such a broad range and volume of activities.

“It’s a whole team approach to visiting our large property portfolio around NSW. Business as usual for our team is regularly overseeing around 40  building projects to completion each year including several very large projects,” said Assistant Commissioner Elliott.

“After my 35 years in NSW Ambulance, the recent investment into our stations is unprecedented. The persistence and resilience of my team over the last few years to finish each year’s program to budget is a great example of quiet achievers.”

“Last year, we lost 18 weeks in the building schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions on the building industry and the workforce, which was then further
complicated with the rain delays and our subsequent lead in the flood recovery operations.

"But, the team planned and played catch-up quite often doing jobs they wouldn’t usually do to make sure we finished the 2021/22 projects, while supporting the flood and storm-impacted stations like Lismore, Mullumbimby and Balgowlah.

"Part of their commitment and professionalism also means we’re looking to the future to implement more energy efficient and sustainable systems, with our modern building specifications and 60 ambulance stations now operating with solar panels.

"Everyone brings value to our specialist team through their broad backgrounds and experience in areas like engineering, construction project management, finance and purchase orders. I am really proud of what the team achieves each year, and I know the team is relishing the prospect of more work in the pipeline.”

It’s just as well, because in June the NSW Government announced funding for a further 30 new ambulance stations as part of a record investment of $1.76 billion.

The Assets & Infrastructure team is already working with Health Infrastructure as this new building program builds momentum while already working through the 2022/23 station refurbishment program.

With ambulance station builds and refurbishments stretching out into the future, even when the rain finally goes away, the concrete will keep on pouring.