Chop­per tender sees global gaze

Rodney Times - - OUT & ABOUT - DELWYN DICKEY

Over­seas emer­gency con­trac­tors have shown in­ter­est in New Zealand’s na­tional he­li­copter res­cue ser­vice.

At a meet­ing in Auck­land last week to thrash out a new model for the ser­vice, hav­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­clud­ing from the UK and Canada in the room was con­cern­ing, Auck­land’s Res­cue He­li­copter Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive Greg Bar­rows said.

Bab­cock (UK) op­er­ates more than 400 air­craft in­ter­na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing in Aus­tralia, and sup­plies en­gi­neer­ing sup­port ser­vices to the New Zealand navy.

CHC is a Cana­dian com­pany with 250 air­craft op­er­at­ing in 30 coun­tries around the world in­clud­ing for the Am­bu­lance Ser­vice of New South Wales.

While a shakeup has some pos­i­tive as­pects, Bar­rows said, fund­ing changes are needed.

The he­li­copter ser­vice is the only emer­gency ser­vice provider that sup­plies all its own ve­hi­cles and equip­ment, with gov­ern­ment con­tribut­ing less than half its op­er­at­ing costs, he said.

A longer term con­tract out to five or 10 years is be­ing dis­cussed, North­land Emer­gency Trust CEO Paul Ah­lers said, likely need­ing newer air­craft.

Most of the na­tional fleet are 25 years and older, he said. Fund­ing for newer air­craft comes from lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘It’s one thing to stand out­side the Ware­house with a bar­be­cue to raise money for the likes of fuel, but it’s a dif­fer­ent thing to do that for a $15 mil­lion dol­lar he­li­copter,’’ Ah­lers said.

The trusts need 75 per cent fund­ing of all costs, in­clud­ing cap­i­tal [air­craft and equip­ment] as the am­bu­lance ser­vice gets, Bar­rows said.

Cur­rent $50 mil­lion fund­ing would need to more than dou­ble, he said.

He finds it disin­gen­u­ous of the gov­ern­ment to now set up a com­mer­cial tender process set­ting the trusts against over­seas op­er­a­tors in­stead of sim­ply fund­ing the cur­rent op­er­a­tors prop­erly.

But Group Man­ager In­te­grated Ser­vice De­sign for Min­istry of Health, Clare Perry, says all those at the meet­ing were in­vited after show­ing in­ter­est when the tender went on­line in Septem­ber 2016.

‘‘Noth­ing has been de­cided about what a new ser­vice model might look like.’’

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