18 Jan 2013

Rescue helicopter trust facing funding cuts

6:50 pm on 18 January 2013

The Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board says it has proposed a funding decrease for the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust because the trust can obtain the funding elsewhere.

The move comes after the board's proposed funding draft for 10 Auckland city-based cultural, visitor and rescue organisations for 2013 and 2014.

The Rescue Helicopter Trust could lose 25% of its funding from ratepayers and warns lives could be put at risk if the proposal goes ahead.

The Amenities Funding Board was set up in 2008 to help fund the cultural, visitor and rescue organisations with ratepayers' money.

It acknowledges that the helicopter trust has received a significant reduction, but says the trust has shown it can access alternative funds to support its services.

Chairperson Vern Walsh says the board goes through a vigourous process to allocate funding.

"The helicopter trust is very, very successful in seeking funding from the public of Auckland who voluntarily give money, because they are a very worthwhile organisation.

"One of the criteria that the legislation provides for is that these amenities have to have exhausted funding from all other sources before we consider any funding."

Rescue Helicopter Trust chairman Murray Bolton said the funding covers just over a quarter of all its operating costs.

"The reality is, we're a 24/7 operation, we need to be - people don't choose when they have accidents."

Mr Bolton said it would have to limit the services to the most vulnerable times, but that would still mean lives could be put at risk.

The draft is open to public submissions until early February.