Strong sup­port sees chop­per res­cued

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

A so­lu­tion to the row be­tween the Auck­land Res­cue He­li­copter Trust and an Auck­land Coun­cil board which cut its fund­ing is be­ing lauded as win-win fix.

Mayor Len Brown an­nounced on Thurs­day that he would be­gin work to plug the fund­ing short­fall of close to $1 mil­lion which led to the dis­pute.

The West­pac Res­cue He­li­copter, op­er­ated by the Auck­land Res­cue He­li­copter Trust, is partly funded by the Auck­land Re­gional Ameni­ties Fund­ing Board.

Res­cue op­er­a­tions by the ser­vice have dou­bled in five years but its fund­ing has been slashed by 70 per cent since 2008.

At the same time the board’s fund­ing of the arts, in­clud­ing the Auck­land Phil­har­mo­nia Orches­tra, has in­creased.

The sit­u­a­tion boiled over this month and the trust ini­ti­ated le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the board af­ter it pro­posed fur­ther fund­ing cuts for the 2014 to 2015 fi­nan­cial year.

The board’s rea­son was that the res­cue he­li­copter was able to get money from other sources such as fundrais­ing.

The trust dropped its case af­ter the mayor stepped in.

As­so­ciate lo­cal govern­ment min­is­ter Pe­seta Sam Lo­tuIiga and Labour MP David Shearer say they will work with the mayor to speed­ily sort the prob­lem. ‘‘This is fan- tas­tic news and the mayor, min­is­ter and Mr Shearer are to be com­mended for recog­nis­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is not ac­cept­able,’’ Auck­land Res­cue He­li­copter Trust chair­man Mur­ray Bolton says.

Drop­ping the le­gal case will save the air am­bu­lance ser­vice about $300,000 and ratepay­ers a sig­nif­i­cant amount in le­gal fees.

‘‘It’s a gen­uine win-win for ev­ery­one,’’ he says.

The mayor is also call­ing for a re­view of the Auck­land Re­gional Ameni­ties Fund­ing Board model.

It was cre­ated be­fore the found­ing of the su­per-city to en­sure lo­cal pub­lic fund­ing for arts groups, the Star­dome ob­ser­va­tory, the Voyager mar­itime mu­seum, Wa­ter­safe Auck­land and three res­cue groups in­clud­ing the he­li­copter ser­vice.

‘‘It is dif­fi­cult for Auck­lan­ders to make sense of a de­ci­sion to cut the res­cue he­li­copter’s fund­ing by 70 per cent in the last five years, while in­creas­ing fund­ing for the nine other re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tions it funds by be­tween 30 and 150 per cent,’’ Mr Brown says.

Cri­sis averted: The Auck­land Res­cue He­li­copter Trust is be­ing thrown a life­line af­ter a pro­posal by the Auck­land Re­gional Ameni­ties Fund­ing Board to fur­ther cut its fund­ing.

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