The Coast Guard has criticised Volunteer Marine Rescue Services for saying their services will cease if the Government doesn't press forward with the Blue Water Review funding outcomes
The Coast Guard has criticised Volunteer Marine Rescue Services for saying their services will cease if the Government doesn't press forward with the Blue Water Review funding outcomes

Marine rescuers back at war over Blue Water plan

DO NOT panic, the Volunteer Coast Guard is still on the job.

That's the message from council chairman Robin Hood, who accused another marine rescue organisation of creating a "scare campaign" to push the Blue Water Review agenda.

He was referring to the Volunteer Marine Rescue Queensland's public warning last week that, unless significant funds were provided by the government, their services would be severely restricted or closed.

"Coast Guard agrees that both organisations are certainly in need of additional government financial support, especially as our fundraising capabilities have been reduced to an absolute minimum in the current COVID-19 crisis," Mr Hood said.

"However, the VMR solution, as outlined in their current campaign, is to push the government into implementing their plan for a single entity marine rescue unit in Queensland.

"We are openly opposed to this plan."

The Morning Bulletin reported in January that Yeppoon-based Coast Guard volunteers were planning a show of "collective resistance" against the Blue Water Review.

They were concerned a single, state-owned entity would charge the boating public for simple services and impose a levy on their vessel registrations, threaten the Coast Guard's not-for-profit status, and put volunteers' roles in jeopardy.

However, a Mackay-based VMR skipper countered that "an overwhelming majority of people" were in favour of the review as it was no longer viable for two organisations to offer the same services and compete for funding.

Mr Hood said the government failed to invite appropriately informed people to the review process.

"They promised to consult the experts but they didn't," he said.

Last week, the government revealed any outcomes from the Blue Water Review were delayed because relevant budget meetings were postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's an impossible mission," Mr Hood said.

"As a national entity, they can't take us over without buying us out and getting the approval of 75 per cent of our members … and for what?

"They'd have to come up with $20 or $30 million just for our equipment, and then there's the cost of changing logos, uniforms and stationery.

"If Joe Public is in trouble out on the water, he doesn't care if Santa Claus comes in his red boat towed by reindeer, just so long as he gets home safe."

Mr Hood said the Coast Guard would honour its duty, under its current funding with the State Government, to ­provide a marine rescue ­service "as we have done for over 50 years - without drama and with an unblemished record."

"We're going to support the boating public whatever it takes and we're not going to whinge about it, because that's what Australians do for each other."

Mr Hood, who was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for his services to training, said the Coast Guard had already been proactive in identifying "sustainable" sources of fundraising to supplement what it received from the State Government.

"Gone are the days you can charge a volunteer for their shirt, then send them down to Bunnings for an eight-hour sausage sizzle," he said.

"Our courses in first aid and radio operations not only improve boating safety but are a better funding stream than standing out in the street rattling a tin.

"Our trainees receive the exact same certificate as commercial operators.

"We just received a certificate of merit from the Australian Border Force for our marine rescue services; that's the highest of accolades."

Meanwhile, Mr Hood awaits funding outcomes from the State Government.

"We hope that when the COVID-19 smoke clears, they will look carefully at the expectations placed upon us by the boating public of Queensland and provide the support that is needed."

Mr Hood, who was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for his services to training, said the Coast Guard has already been proactive in identifying "sustainable" sources of fundraising to supplement what they receive from the State Government.

"Gone are the days you can charge a volunteer for their shirt then send them down to Bunnings for an eight-hour sausage sizzle," he said.

"Our courses in first aid and radio operations not only improve boating safety but are a better funding stream than standing out in the street rattling a tin.

"Our trainees receive the exact same certificate as commercial operators.

"We just received a certificate of merit from the Australian Border Force for our marine rescue services; that's the highest of accolades."

Meanwhile, he awaits funding outcomes from the State Government.

"We hope that when the Covid-19 smoke clears, they will look carefully at the expectations placed upon us by the boating public of Queensland and provide the support that is needed."



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