Helicopter rescue funding at risk
CENTRAL Queenslanders will have to dig even deeper if we want our helicopter rescue service to continue its vital community role.
The Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service yesterday said the state government's rejection of additional funding to support its new twin engine helicopter had put the performance of the service in jeopardy.
The service said the new twin engine IFR Dauphin Helicopter, which began its service this week, would allow it to cover much greater distances, had better safety features and bigger capacity.
But executive director Kay Becker said compared to the funding other Queensland rescue services received this year, Central Queensland had been neglected in the allocation of funds.
She pointed to the $50 million in funding Queensland Rescue, based in Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane, had been allocated or received solely for new helicopters.
'Don't the people of Central Queensland deserve the same funding that the people of Townsville, Cairns and Brisbane do?' Ms Becker yesterday said.
So far this year, the service has attended 127 tasks and Ms Becker said she expected the service to answer about a 70 per cent increase for the year.
'The ultimate result will be, if the government doesn't increase their funding, the community will have to and there's a limit to how much they can fund,' Ms Becker said.
'It will mean the helicopter will have to be downgraded ? that's the long-term forecast.'
A statement from the service yesterday said the new aircraft meant their operational budget had increased by almost $1 million. ' A spokesperson for Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell said the four Queensland community helicopter emergency services each received an annual grant of $890,000.
The spokesperson said it was up to the community helicopter provid- ers to decide how the money was used, and Capricorn Helicopter Res- cue Service had chosen to buy a new helicopter and only later had come to the government for more funding.
He said Queensland Rescue was funded by the state government where as Capricorn Helicopter Res- cue Service was community funded.