Coastguard calls for a lifeline

THE Iluka/Yamba Coastguard is in danger of being shut down if doesn't get more volunteers and government subsidies.

That's the view of Flotilla Commander Doug Smith, who said younger volunteers and regular cash injections were the key to the survival of the station.

"If we don't hurry up and get proper government subsidies then the Coastguard could cease to exist," he said.

"It's getting more and more expensive to run and we don't get anything back from the government."

He said many people expressed interest in joining, but once they discovered the costs involved with volunteering, changed their minds.

"When you start talking to people and say we want you in the Coastguard but you have to pay a membership fee, plus buy your own uniforms and pay for fuel when coming to the base, it puts them off," he said.

"We don't get anything back from the government, whereas for example, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter gets $4000 an hour for any rescue work."

Mr Smith said another key to the Coastguard's survival was getting younger people to volunteer.

"Sooner or later we're all going to die off. In the past year we've had three members pass away and if we don't get people to replace them, the Coastguard will die off," he said. "We have to get people in their 40s and early 50s to come and help us.

"If this doesn't change, and in a very short while, we are going to have to start closing stations."

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