‘We’re doing it now because of our expanded services, and changes in the community like more FIFO workers who use the beach more during the week, so overall the need for us has grown,’ SLSWA aviation services manager Peter Scott said.
SLSWA will move its SurfCom communications to a purpose-built facility above the new hangar that will house the two Westpac Lifesaver Rescue helicopters at the Rous Head heliport between rescue and shark patrol flights as far north as Moore River, south to Dawesville and up to 40km out to sea.
The winch-equipped aircraft are currently housed under a temporary roof between walls of shipping containers that store rescue equipment, leaving the $3 million and $1 million machines exposed to wind and salt spray and aircrew using a portable toilet. SurfCom operations have been run from a small room at Floreat SLSC to co-ordinate all lifesavers’ needs during incidents, patrols on jet skis and with the support of emergency services, Water Police and volunteer sea rescuers.
Mr Scott said the new, larger communications centre, manned by about six operators and aircrew 6am-6pm all week, would allow better provision of water safety, particularly at isolated stretches of the metropolitan coast such as between Floreat and Scarborough beaches.
He said rescue equipment would be stored in the hangar and quickly obtained for the aircraft.
SLSWA will contribute about $600,000 to the complex and the State Government provided a $1.3m Lotterywest grant last week. The heliport is rented from the Fremantle Port Authority on a peppercorn lease, and work on the facility is expected to start in October and finish about April next year.