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Helicopter Trust Holds Successful Meeting with Len Brown

24 March 2014

Helicopter Trust Holds Successful Meeting with Mayor Len Brown

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust today met with Auckland Mayor Len Brown to discuss its funding situation.

The essential rescue service has had its public funding cut by 70% in recent years by the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board, despite the board saying publicly there are no criteria against which it makes its funding decisions. Nor does the funding board operate a gifts and inducements register.

The chairman of the helicopter trust, Murray Bolton, described the meeting as “very positive”. He said the mayor was “strongly supportive” of the rescue helicopter service and that the atmospherics were “warm and friendly”.

Mr Bolton said the mayor accepted the rescue helicopter’s view that the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008 created perverse incentives. Those amenities that fail to receive material public support through fundraising are given the highest ratepayer funding from the board. Those services, like the rescue helicopter, that are strongly supported by Aucklanders have their public funding cut.

The mayor also repeated his public pledge to address the rescue helicopter’s $900,000 funding gap for 2014/15 with council funds – a commitment which has led to the trust dropping its plans for further litigation against the board.

Section 42 of the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008 allows the essential rescue service to receive funding from both the board and the council as long as the funding is not for the same expense.

The helicopter trust has also received legal advice that it is fully compliant with section 21(1)(f) of the Act that requires any amenity wanting to receive funds from the board to first make “all reasonable endeavours to maximise its funding from other available funding sources”. The rescue service has done so through aggressive fundraising and by maintaining a naming-rights relationship with Westpac. It is not clear whether or not other amenities are compliant with section 21(1)(f).

Mr Bolton said the helicopter trust accepted the mayor’s view that it would be better for the flawed legislation and funding gap to be resolved without ongoing public hostilities in the media.

In response, the trust asked the mayor to suggest to the funding board that it desist from leaking commercial information, provided to it under an obligation of confidence, to the media. It cited a leak of the trust’s financial statements, which indicate a cash surplus.

“One of our helicopters needs to be replaced, so we have a new helicopter on layby, which we are saving up for by running cash surpluses. It’s a bit rough that they leaked that information to try to discredit our rescue service, but we’re not going to make too much of a fuss of it,” Mr Bolton said.

ENDS

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