An out-of-court settlement between the old and new operators of the Westpac Helicopter Rescue service will see community-raised funds intended to support the former service stay on the North coast.
But the compromise will see some money raised for the old service being distributed to local Surf Life Saving Clubs.
The wrangle was complicated by the involvement of Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA), which auspiced the original Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd (Northern) for 35 years.
When Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service Limited (NNSW) took over the running of the service last year, they argued funds raised should stay in the region they were raised and applied specifically to the helicopter service.
NNSW commenced its new operations covering the larger North Coast, Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands region from a new base at Lismore Airport on April 27 last year.
In September, NNSW began proceedings to ensure Northern did not distribute funds away from the service.
NNSW CEO Richard Jones said at the time that he believed the board of the old service was on the brink of distributing money to Surf Life Saving Clubs and other charities outside the region after Northern ceased its operations.
The parties have now settled the proceedings, with the funds being distributed to NNSW and SLSA to be applied to support the helicopter rescue service and Surf Life Saving programs in northern New South Wales.
Northern’s chair, Warren Tozer OAM, said he was ‘pleased that the matter was resolved in accordance with Northern’s constitution and contractual obligations.’
Graham Ford AM, President of SLSA, said it was ‘satisfied with the outcome and was ‘pleased that settlement could be reached through mediation between the parties’.
‘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. ‘
Chief Executive Officer of NNSW, Richard Jones OAM, said that funds received by NNSW from the settlement ‘will be applied directly to the North Coast, Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands operations of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter’.
‘We are satisfied with this outcome and pleased it could be resolved through mediated settlement.
‘Establishing this new service required us to take out a substantial loan and receipt of funds will allow us to repay a significant amount of that loan.
‘The significant costs of developing the base, training staff and commencing flying in the new Agusta Westland AW139 was an essential commitment we made to this region to provide a world class service.
‘We are very grateful for the community support we have received over the past 12 months. Since our commencement of operations we have flown over 500 missions, many of which were life¬saving, and that’s the thing we are most proud of,’ Mr Jones said.