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Chopper being rescued

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014
Westpac

CRISIS AVERTED: The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust is being thrown a lifeline after a proposal by the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board to further cut its funding.

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A solution to the row between the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and an Auckland Council board which cut its funding is being lauded as win-win fix.

Mayor Len Brown announced on Thursday that he would begin work to plug the funding shortfall of close to $1 million which led to the dispute.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter, operated by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, is partly funded by the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board.

Rescue operations by the service have doubled in five years but its funding has been slashed by 70 per cent since 2008.

At the same time the board's funding of the arts, including the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, has increased.

The situation boiled over this month and the trust initiated legal proceedings against the board after it proposed further funding cuts for the 2014 to 2015 financial year.

The board's reason was that the rescue helicopter was able to get money from other sources such as fundraising.

The trust dropped its case after the mayor stepped in.

Associate local government minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Labour MP David Shearer say they will work with the mayor to speedily sort the problem.

"This is fantastic news and the mayor, minister and Mr Shearer are to be commended for recognising the current situation is not acceptable," Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust chairman Murray Bolton says.

Dropping the legal case will save the air ambulance service about $300,000 and ratepayers a significant amount in legal fees.

"It's a genuine win-win for everyone," he says.

The mayor is also calling for a review of the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board model.

It was created before the founding of the super-city to ensure local public funding for arts groups, the Stardome observatory, the Voyager maritime museum, Watersafe Auckland and three rescue groups including the helicopter service.

"It is difficult for Aucklanders to make sense of a decision to cut the rescue helicopter's funding by 70 per cent in the last five years, while increasing funding for the nine other regional organisations it funds by between 30 and 150 per cent," Mr Brown says.

It is time for the model to be looked at, he says.

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- East And Bays Courier

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