Rescue chopper fights to survive
Auckland’s Westpac rescue helicopter may be grounded by January unless it gets emergency funding to cover a shortfall caused by falling donations and sponsorship.
The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and WaterSafe Auckland have asked the Auckland City Council for money to help continue the helicopter services until next year.
Trust chief executive Bob Parkinson asked for $90,000 at the council’s arts, culture and recreation committee earlier this month.
Mr Parkinson said lives would be lost if the service had to be scaled back.
“With accidents and search and rescue, time is of the essence. Scaling back means our arrival at the scenes of incidents will be delayed.”
He said 75 percent of the trust’s funding comes from sponsorship and donations and 25 percent is covered by service fees.
Westpac is the helicopter’s principal sponsor, along with Mobil Aviation and Fuji Xerox.
“Donations and sponsors have not been able to meet previous funding levels needed to maintain the service,” Mr Parkinson told the committee.
“We are currently experiencing a decline of $20,000 per week.”
In an effort to mitigate the loss, the trust has made cutbacks to staff at management level equivalent to saving $10,000 a week.
Help will arrive next July with the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act, which will spread funding for certain amenities, including the trust, across the region’s seven territorial authorities.
But in the meantime, it will still suffer a shortfall of $250,000 to $300,000. The service has been running for more than 30 years and covers the greater Auckland region.
Mr Parkinson said the trust had applied to other organisations including the Guardian Trust and the ASB Community Trust without success.
“We come before you as others have with this difficult time.
“We have approached other local authorities in Auckland and been declined.”
WaterSafe chief executive Sandy Harrop said the service needed $70,000 to ensure it can continue programmes into next year.
The organisation is $300,000 in deficit and without funding, jobs may be cut and services reduced.
The council recently bailed out the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and New Zealand Opera, giving the groups $90,000 each from unallocated arts funding to keep them from folding.
Committee chairman councillor Greg Moyle said the council could not promise funding to either the trust or WaterSafe because there was no money in the budget, but would be happy to provide any non-monetary support.
The committee voted to have council officers use their “best endeavours” to find any spare funding for the organisations.