Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai State Emergency Service Unit

Alister with the Ku-ring-gai SES Unit

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 17:35 :17 ): I had always planned to speak at the next opportunity about my local outstanding State Emergency Service unit in Ku-ring-gai but it is especially fitting when today we recognise in this place WOW—Wear Orange Wednesday—Day to support and thank our 10,000 or more SES staff and volunteers for their selfless service to the people of this State. Orange of course is not only the colour of the nation of my heritage, The Netherlands—and I wish my father a happy ninety-first birthday today—but also instantly recognisable as the uniform of the SES in this great State. It is a bold colour worn by brave people and we welcomed them here today and thanked them for their service.

It is fair to say that when wild weather hits the Sydney Basin it often does so with such a vengeance that at times it even outstrips the predictions and analysis of our weather experts. Sadly but understandably, Ku-ring-gai features all too often when these violent weather events occur. In fact, it was only a day or two into my role as the new member for Ku-ring-gai when a huge rain and wind storm tore through numerous parts of the eastern seaboard. Again Ku-ring-gai was not spared. Enter the Ku-ring-gai unit of the SES. That single April weather event would see my local SES unit turn out to 400 separate events, or what it calls "jobs".

Just months later, in October last year, another savage storm would result in hundreds more calls for assistance. The Ku-ring-gai SES unit turned out to another 250 jobs. The Ku-ring-gai unit alone has turned out to more than 1,500 jobs in the past 18 months. Recently I had the pleasure of being shown through the Ku-ring-gai SES unit headquarters at Golden Jubilee Field at North Wahroonga along with the Minister for Corrections, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister for Veteran Affairs, the Hon. David Elliott, for the announcement of a discretionary funding grant towards new equipment for the unit. The pride this unit has in the local SES headquarters was instantly apparent, and the vehicles and all other equipment are ready to roll at any given moment. The headquarters itself is spotless.

I thank and acknowledge Ku-ring-gai SES unit controller David Catterall, deputy controller Murray Lennon and all those who took time out to welcome the Minister and me on that day, including Rob Selby, John Tindall, Cat Gallaher, Lesley Terrell, Adam Ferrando, Harm Dreath, Greg Rappo and also Luke Stevenson for informing me about this proud organisation. I also thank the regional commander of the Sydney Northern Region, Alison Flaxman, for her presence on the day. Just like many of the structures the Ku-ring-gai SES saves and helps to bring back from the brink of destruction, its headquarters is somewhat of a Phoenix story in itself.

In 2007 the Golden Jubilee site on Esk Street was deemed unfit for use as the local headquarters due to instability of the former waste management site. The unit upped stumps and relocated to a decommissioned waste management site at Gordon but that site was ultimately sold. In August 2012 the Ku-ring-gai SES unit again relocated, this time to Curagul Road at North Turramurra. The following month, September 2012, saw the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the new facilities on the site vacated at North Wahroonga in 2007. In 2013 that new home, its current home, was completed, occupied and opened by none other than the local member for Ku-ring-gai and then Premier, the Hon. Barry O'Farrell.

I noted during my visit to the SES headquarters that another former member for Ku-ring-gai and also Premier, the Hon. Nick Greiner, had also had a very long association with the SES unit across its decades of existence. Spread proudly across a wall in the Ku-ring-gai SES unit's headquarters at Golden Jubilee Fields is a sprawling black-and-white photographic montage of some of the major weather events and catastrophes that the unit has been involved in since its inception as a civil defence organisation branch in 1957.

It would be impossible to include every one of those operations in this speech but the biggest of these remembered locally to this day is known simply as "the storm"—the cyclone of January 1991 that tore through large parts of St Ives, Turramurra and Wahroonga. There was the incredible fire storm of the summer of 1993-94 that engulfed so many communities in our State. However, the Ku-ring-gai SES unit is never simply confined to its own turf. It responded to the Newcastle earthquake in 1989, Cyclone Tracy in 1974 and the Thredbo landslide. I am proud of the Ku-ring-gai SES unit, its members and all its service to our local community.

Mr KEVIN ANDERSON ( Tamworth ) ( 17:40 :26 ): I join the excellent member for Ku-ring-gai in recognising the great work of his local SES volunteers and appreciate his advocacy for them on this very special day—WOW, or Wear Orange Wednesday, Day. I thank him for continuing to highlight the importance of SES volunteers not only in Ku-ring-gai but across New South Wales.