Wollongong residents could soon be forced to travel to Sydney to get a marriage licence or a copy of their birth certificate, the public service union said yesterday.
Public Service Association (PSA) south-east regional organiser Tony Heathwood said the Wollongong Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) office, located on Kembla Street, had been slated to shut on March 28.
The closure would force its five full-time staff to take up positions within the department’s Chippendale operation.
Mr Heathwood said the closure would require the government’s new Wollongong Service NSW centre, which opened late last year, to take on BDM transactions.
However, he claimed Service NSW staff would not be able to issue any certificates over the counter or provide marriage services in Wollongong, forcing people to travel to Sydney.
“If people want a certificate on the spot, they’ll have to go to Parramatta or Chippendale,” he said.
“It’s just atrocious – the government promised that Service NSW would deliver and it actually doesn’t deliver anything; they don’t issue certificates, they just take people’s money and send it off.”
Under the new scheme, Wollongong’s Service NSW will deliver “urgent” certificates by mail within three to four days.
Non-urgent certificates will be delivered within five weeks, the PSA said.
Previously, the Wollongong BDM office would issue birth, death and marriage certificates, process amendments to records and register births on the day of attendance. Non-urgent certificates could be collected the next working day for a lesser fee.
Mr Heathwood said he understood the BDM office would continue to host marriage ceremonies but remained unclear about the details.
“It is highly unlikely that this service will be provided daily, unless there is sufficient demand to warrant sending a person down from Sydney,” he said.
Staff within the Wollongong BDM office will not be offered redundancies but will be “allowed some flexibility for personal or carer issues, arising from the transition”. A Service NSW spokeswoman confirmed the closure, stating “most BDM functions” would be available at the Wollongong Service NSW centre from March 29.
She noted the partnership with Service NSW would enable Wollongong customers to have greater access to BDM services through longer trading hours.
“BDM is committed to maintaining its high standard of service to people in the Illawarra,” she said.
“This change will allow BDM to focus on working with local businesses to expand its civil marriage service in Wollongong, providing more choice and greater flexibility to customers.”
Tony Heathwood from the Public Services Association. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN
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