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Rescue helicopter funds safe

Geoff Helisma |

Funds raised by various community organisations and donations by individuals towards the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service will be used only in northern NSW regions.

The service’s July 11 media release says that the “matter involved the distribution of funds after Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service ceased its operations of 35 years in 2017”.

The service is now operated by Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service Limited, as a result of the NSW Government’s restructuring of the ‘Health Retrieval Network’, which commenced in 2014 and was completed in 2017.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA), which initiated the service and was the third entity involved in a Supreme Court mediation, is no longer a partner in the service.

The parties settled the proceedings, with the funds being distributed to NNSW (the current operator) and SLSA – “to be applied to support the helicopter rescue service and surf life saving programs in northern New South Wales”.

Warren Tozer OAM, chair of the former operator, Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service, said he was “pleased that the matter was resolved in accordance with Northern’s constitution and contractual obligations”, including the re-employment of staff by the new operator.

Graham Ford AM, SLSA president, was pleased, too.

“Surf Life Saving members and hundreds of local volunteers have spent many thousands of hours supporting the helicopter rescue service in the Northern region during the past three decades – and, this settlement ensures critical funding will remain in the area to support the helicopter service and Surf Life Saving programs,” he said.

Richard Jones OAM, NNSW’s chief executive officer, said: “We are satisfied with this outcome and pleased it could be resolved through mediated settlement.
“Establishing this new Service at Lismore Airport required us to take out a substantial loan and receipt of funds will allow us to repay a significant amount of that loan.
“Funds are being applied for the purpose of helicopter emergency medical services in the north coast, Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands region.”

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