Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter generic
Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter generic Contributed

Sweeping changes for Westpac Helicopter announced

WESTPAC Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter has moved to assure donors money raised will continue to keep the chopper in the air as the service finalises its merger with its Hunter, New England and North West Region counterparts.

It comes as sweeping changes were announced this afternoon by the service's chief executive, Richard Jones OAM, who emphasised that every dollar raised locally will continue to support the local service.

Change has been afoot since March when the State Government rolled out a $151 million package to create a statewide helicopter retrieval network.

This funding was purposed to establish the new state network to comprise of a uniform structure, training and aircraft.

That means the helicopter will continue to operate under the same, fundraising model used for more than 35 years to maintain the vital service.

 

The new chopper at the new Lismore base.
The new chopper at the new Lismore base. Westpac Rescue Helicopter

Under the Charities Act, there are legal strongholds to ensure money donated stays within the communities in which they are raised.

Abiding by those laws, Mr Jones said financial accounts would be managed in a local trust which would be looked after by a newly formed Regional Advisory Council.

The Northern, North West and New England regions will form their own Regional Advisory Councils to manage funds for their communities.

The new RAC would comprise of a new chairperson and eight community members following the departure of the existing Northern Region board and general manager, Kris Beavis.

The chairperson for each RAC will be a representative for their region on the overarching board for the areomedical services for the entire northern sector.

Offered were made to the former board members to join the new Northern Region board but the offer was declined.

 

Departing Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter general manager, Kris Beavis.
Departing Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter general manager, Kris Beavis. Marc Stapelberg


Mr Beavis said he was fortunate "to be part of such a marvellous service for our local community".

"It is humbling as to the marvellous support our community (including the volunteers), invest in the service," Mr Beavis said

"All staff are committed to the work at the "pointy end", and collectively with our community the service demonstrated that North Coast lives are as important as they are in metropolitan areas so deserve the same standard of care.

"I think it is important that we also recognise that right through to its last shift; the service was a safe set of hands in supporting NSW Ambulance by providing safe transport to over 8500 patients through that chapter of the Service's life."

Rewind nearly 30 years ago, founder of the helicopter on the North Coast Elton Cummings could remember when the first full-time helicopter, a Bell 206B Jetranger took to the skies.

 

Elton Cummings, founder of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter in the Northern NSW Region celebrates 30 years of the service saving lives.
Elton Cummings, founder of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter in the Northern NSW Region celebrates 30 years of the service saving lives. Liina Flynn

In the early days, Mr Cummings said the founding committee "were on struggle street" for about seven years before the service started to flourish with the support community and other sponsors.

"They've taken that dream I had as the founder way past my expectations," Mr Cummings said.

"I never thought we'd get to the fantastic operation we have today. It's a medical surgery in the sky,"

Details including the selection criteria and applications process for the Regional Advisory Councils will be announced on Monday, July 17 on the Helirecue website.



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