Res­cue chop­per fights to sur­vive

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

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.

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