Save our chopper
By PETER ROWE
COFFS Harbour MP Andrew Fraser has made an impassioned plea for the NSW state government to 'get its act together' and sign off on the basing of a Westpac Lifesaver Rescue helicopter here on the Coffs Coast.
Currently three helicopters are based at Lismore but one has been earmarked for a move to Coffs Harbour airport.
And the Advocate reported in August, as part of its $100,000 sponsorship deal, that its arrival was imminent.
But Mr Fraser has become angry at the delay, laying the blame at the door of State health minister Reba Meagher.
"The fatal accident at Moonee has highlighted the urgent need for this vital service to be based in the Coffs Harbour region," he said.
"It took over 40 minutes for the helicopter to arrive at the scene of the accident at Moonee."
"And that is quite simply unacceptable."
Mr Fraser added that, as far as he knew, the only thing preventing the Coffs service starting was Department of Health approval.
"Reba Meagher is responsible for this mess. We have been pushing for a service for over a decade and something has to happen."
Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter service general manager Perry Wells confirmed they were still waiting for the state government in Sydney to sign off the relocation plan.
"It's very frustrating because we could be up and running tomorrow if we got the green light today," said a frustrated Mr Wells.
"We have only this week finalised a hangar at Coffs Harbour airport to house the helicopter but until the Department of Health signs off on 'tasking' the chopper to go on missions, we can do nothing.
"It would be pointless even moving the helicopter to Coffs until that happens."
Mr Fraser said it was ironic that the funeral of Ron Lawrence, a director of the helicopter rescue service, was being held in Coffs Harbour as two more people died on the Pacific Highway.
"Mr Lawrence was a strong advocate of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service and he had a strong desire to have a base in Coffs Harbour," said Fraser.
The Advocate announced a $100,000 sponsorship deal with the service earlier this year, as part of the plan to relocate one of the helicopter's here in Coffs.
And the deal was a major factor in the purchase of a new rescue helicopter to cover the region.
"The new helicopter will be based in Coffs as soon a green light is given from the Department of Health," said Mr Wells at the time.
Attempts to get answers from State health minister Reba Meagher's office, or from the NSW Ambulance service proved unsuccessful as we went to press last night.