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What could have been . . . An artist's interpretation of the proposed St John Oamaru building at Awamoa Park. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/WAITAKI DISTRICT COUNCIL

St John Oamaru is going back to the drawing board.

It has been denied the opportunity to build its new ambulance base at Awamoa Park, after Waitaki district councillors voted down its proposal on Monday.

Seven councillors voted against the initiative, leaving only Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale voting in favour. Cr Kelli Williams was not present.

St John South Island general manager Craig Stockdale said the proposal had been a “work in progress” for many years, and vowed to continue the search for a new Oamaru home.

“We are still committed to finding a suitable site for a new ambulance station in Oamaru,” Mr Stockdale said.

“We appreciate the Waitaki District Council taking the time to consider our Awamoa Park proposal.”

St John needed to relocate as its Coquet St premises were no longer fit for purpose, and sited in a tsunami zone.

When asked if St John would now consider previously investigated sites, or the old Mitre 10 site, St John South Island communications adviser Gerard Campbell declined to comment.

“We will continued operating from the Coquet St location until we find a new site,” Mr Campbell said.

At Monday’s reconvened hearings, all councillors agreed St John was integral to Oamaru, but those opposed cited loss of green space and strong vocal submissions against it at last week’s hearing in their reasoning.

Cr Bill Kingan said if the proposal had gone ahead, the council could regret its decision in the future.

“I think this is such a nice spot up there. To think that this is the only bit of land in the district to build a station on seems surprising to me,” Cr Kingan said.

“I know we’ve got to look for somewhere else, but I’m sure there is somewhere else.”

He believed the submissions against were well researched, and Cr Colin Wollstein agreed.

“A lot of positive people supporting the proposal made no reason given why they were in favour. Everybody agrees the present location is not the best – they need a new location – but just not on the park,” Cr Wollstein said.

Cr Jim Hopkins said the arguments against were more persuasive than those in favour.

“I think the whole community . . . is going to have to actually commit to assisting St John. And that means the people who say may have to accept that if it doesn’t go in the park, it goes somewhere else at a cost to the community.

“If this community wants St John to have the facility it needs for the future, then it may well have to enable that from its own funding sources.”

After the meeting, Cr Guy Percival said he could have voted either way, depending on community mandate, but he believed the public was clearly against it.

St John formally asked the council to lease the site in February.

The council undertook community consultation and 59% of people said they would support the proposal, while 36% said they would not.

However, one submission was signed by about 25 people and several opposing councillors said it should have been counted individually, and not as one submission.

Mr Kircher said the decision was not taken lightly and he wished St John the best.

“We do hope that you end up with a good facility in the right location as soon as possible. The challenge is really to the community to step up, and provide you with the extra funding that is probably going to be needed,” he said.

The council voted to assist St John in finding another location for its facility.