Kurri Kurri OOSH still in temporary home, more than seven months after November storm

STILL WAITING: Michelle Hancock and her daughter Chloe, 13, who attends the Kurri Kurri OOSH, in front of the storm-damaged ambulance hall. Picture: Krystal Sellars
STILL WAITING: Michelle Hancock and her daughter Chloe, 13, who attends the Kurri Kurri OOSH, in front of the storm-damaged ambulance hall. Picture: Krystal Sellars

It has been more than seven months since a brief but ferocious afternoon storm tore through Kurri Kurri, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

The storm on November 6 ripped the roof off the Kurri Kurri Ambulance Hall, which remains in a state of disrepair.

The delay in fixing the building means Kurri Kurri Community Services’ OOSH (out-of-school-hours care) has been sharing premises with the Girl Guides next door since the storm.

Michelle Hancock – whose daughter Chloe attends the OOSH service – said while the Guide hall was suitable for an emergency period, the service’s move back into the ambulance hall was well overdue.

Chloe, 13, has Down syndrome, and is one of a number of children with disabilities who attend the OOSH.

Ms Hancock said she and many other parents were concerned about the size and safety of the interim venue.

“All we want is our hall back,” she said.

“The Girl Guides have been fantastic in moving around and trying to accommodate us as best as possible, but it wasn’t supposed to be for this long.

“It has just gone on for too long.”

A Cessnock City Council spokesperson said the council does not have a timeframe for the building’s repairs, but that it expects to lodge a complying development application in the next week for the first stage of the works (which would include structural repairs to the roof framing, replacing the roof sheeting, flashing and guttering to prevent further weather damage).

The asbestos ceiling in the hall has been removed and testing of remaining materials and equipment has been completed.

“Council’s insurer is coordinating the works in consultation with its appointed contractor and council,” the spokesperson said.

“A structural assessment has been completed and complying development consent is required before further works can commence.

“There are a number of reports being finalised to support the plans and complying development consent application being finalised.

”The contractor coordinating the works estimates that once consent is granted, works are likely to take 12-to-16 weeks.

“Council has confirmed with its insurer that the hall is to be repaired similar to its previous state for the same purpose.

“Council will continue to keep the community up to date as works commence and more information comes to hand.”

Ms Hancock said the OOSH was an essential service to many families in the Kurri Kurri area, and that the delay in getting back into the hall was frustrating.

“It’s not just a derelict building, it’s a vital part of the community,” she said.

“A lot of places have been fixed, or are in the process of being fixed, but something that involves children hasn’t.”

Kurri Kurri Community Services CEO Mike Coddington said he shares Ms Hancock’s frustrations.

Mr Coddington said he understands repairing the historic building is a complex issue, but he would like to see it resolved soon so the OOSH can resume its normal operations.

“We want to get the facility back for the children,” he said.

“The Girl Guides have done a fantastic job to support us, but it’s not optimal.”

Kurri Kurri Community Services’ community centre in Lang Street also sustained severe damage in the November storm, with two people injured as the centre’s roof partially collapsed.

About one-third of the community centre remains closed.

Mr Coddington said while the centre has done its best to get on with business as usual, the team is looking forward to the completion of the repair works.

“It’s been a long waiting game; people are anxious to see some progress,” he said.