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Speaking Notes for Murray Bolton, Chairman

AUCKLAND RESCUE HELICOPTER TRUST

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014


Speaking Notes for Murray Bolton, Chairman

Good morning.

As most of you are aware, I am Murray Bolton, Chairman of the Board of Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust.

The submission today on behalf of our essential helicopter rescue service is to reinstate the sum of $1,350,000 – the full amount applied for in the 2014/15 year.

We submit that in yet again slashing funding for our essential rescue service, you have acted unfairly, irrationally and unlawfully and – we suspect – under undue influence from those whose funding you have continually increased.

It is possible to consider the 2014/15 situation only in the context of the pattern over previous years.

You will have seen this graph on page three of our submission.

It shows you have continually cut the funding for our essential rescue service even as you have increased the funding for all other amenities such as the philharmonia orchestra and opera.

We submit that you have not met your statutory obligations to provide adequate, sustainable and secure funding to the essential rescue service, a specified amenity under the Act.

By failing to provide this adequate, sustainable and secure funding to our essential service, you have told the people of Auckland that the helicopter rescue service does not contribute to the well-being of the region, nor is it viewed as an essential safety net for a vibrant and attractive Auckland.

Aucklanders themselves disagree.

A December 2012 study by Phoenix Research revealed that 86 per cent of Aucklanders believe the helicopter rescue service is beneficial to Aucklanders – far surpassing any of the other specified amenities under the Act such as the orchestra or opera.

You have ignored the people of Auckland.

This table shows the levels of support for each amenity by the people of Auckland. We are the highest, with 86% public support.

In slashing our funding on the grounds that we have “demonstrated the ability to access alternative funding to support its activities”, you have slashed our funding because we are supported by Aucklanders and because our funding-raising team works so hard.

The fact Aucklanders back us and the fact our fundraising team works hard should be reasons for you to increase our funding, not cut it.

Yes, we have an arrangement with Westpac Bank. And while we are very grateful to Westpac for their generosity, as are the people of Auckland, we cannot subsist on that amount alone.

That is why we aggressively fundraise from the public. We do not expect you to use that as an excuse to continually cut the public funding we receive.

Our ability to fundraise has its limits.

Initially, Parliament introduced this legislation to prevent ad hoc, unpredictable and unsustainable funding. Parliament clearly demonstrated what they thought secure funding was.

That amount was $1,500,000 in 2009. Since that date, we have doubled the service.

Instead, you have ignored not just the people of Auckland but Parliament each time you have slashed our funding.

You have also ignored the hundreds of lives saved, and the families that can now breathe easy because their loved ones are safe.

Looking ahead, our two helicopters - built in 1988 and 1991 – are becoming more expensive to maintain, operate and keep safe. We have refurbished them over the years, but given their age, we need to replace them in order to continue to provide a safe, outstanding and essential rescue service for the people of Auckland.

In carrying out your functions, you must comply with the law. You cannot make arbitrary decisions outside the law, especially not those influenced by improper considerations.

We do not provide free helicopter joy rides for members of this Funding Board because ours is an essential service.

We wonder if that has been our mistake.

We wonder if free tickets to gala openings of the orchestra or the opera have been in play here.

How is anyone to know? After all, you have refused to release your secret register of pecuniary interests. You refuse to tell us, the media, the Mayor, or the people of Auckland just who it is that has been giving you gifts and why.

You are aware we are already involved in litigation for 2013/14. The reality is that more litigation will follow until the Board acts properly and provides us with the level of funding Parliament calculated our essential service provides.

We urge you to avoid that litigation by conducting your decision making within the law, and restoring our funding to at least $1,350,000.

END

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