The stoush over who gets money raised for the former Westpac Rescue Helicopter service has been resolved.
The stoush over who gets money raised for the former Westpac Rescue Helicopter service has been resolved. Contributed

Fight over $16m helicopter fund comes to an end

A YEAR after proceedings were launched in the NSW Supreme Court over $16million of rescue helicopter fundraising money, an out-of court settlement has been reached.

The court action arose in 2017 after Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service Limited (NNSW) won the tender to operate a new rescue service in northern NSW and Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service (Northern) ceased operations.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) started the first rescue helicopter service on the Northern Rivers, and continued to support Northern when they assumed operations 35 years ago.

A stoush then arose over which organisation should receive funds from the disbandment of Northern, including cash raised by volunteers, op shops, raffles, community donations, the sale of two helicopters and a base in Lismore.

SLSA wanted funds distributed to surf life saving clubs across the Northern Rivers and NNSW wanted the funds to go to supporting the new helicopter service.

Today ,Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA), Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd (Northern) and Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service Limited (NNSW) announced they have resolved Supreme Court proceedings.

They agreed to share the funds - money will be distributed to NNSW and SLSA to be applied to support the helicopter rescue service and Surf Life Saving programs in northern New South Wales.

Mr Tozer OAM, Chairman of Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd said: "I am pleased that the matter was resolved in accordance with Northern's constitution and contractual obligations as it

has always been the Northern board's direction to ensure its staff were re-employed and that all funds raised and assets acquired were distributed in accordance with Northern's constitutional requirements."

Graham Ford AM, President of SLSA, said SLSA 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, reiterated funds received by NNSW from this settlement will be applied directly to the North Coast, Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands operations of the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter.

"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," Mr Jones said.

"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," he said.

"We are very grateful for the community support we have received over the past 12 months. Since our commencement of operations on April 27, 2017 we have flown over 500 missions, many of which were lifesaving, and that's the thing we are most proud of."



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