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Open letter to NRC ratepayers and Northland Rescue Helicopter supporters

Each year, the Northland Rescue Helicopters transport over 1,000 people who need critical medical attention. These are often people that you know or love.

In fact, since our formation in 1988 we have transported well over 28,000 people.

We are extremely grateful to the Northland Regional Council and Northland ratepayers for the support provided to the Northland Rescue Helicopters, through Council’s Emergency Services Fund (ESF). This fund provides valuable support to Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) and other rescue organisations in Northland, and is created through a targeted rate of $12 per household included in your annual rates bill.

The Northland Rescue Helicopter service is not 100% funded by Central Government. Each year, we are required to find $1.2M of community funding to cover the basic cost of our operations. This does not include capital funding for helicopters and equipment (which is additional). Approximately half of this operational shortfall ($535K) is covered by the ESF. The balance is covered by our annual appeal and other donations from the community.

However, the NRC has just released its consultation document on the Long Term Plan and is proposing that the Emergency Services Fund be scrapped.

This will be devastating for our helicopter service, which receives the greatest level of support from this fund. Of the $12 per household currently levied in the ESF rate, approximately $6 of this goes to our rescue helicopter service.

NRC is proposing that the Emergency Services Fund will stop from 30 June 2024, and that the money will instead be used to soften the general rates increase coming this year.

Unfortunately, this leaves us almost no time at all to replace the funding gap. Under this scenario, NEST will almost certainly have to run under a deficit, and this will place us under tremendous financial pressure.

The methodology of the ESF and the targeted rate is a great model, because it effectively spreads the contribution from the community over every household. This means that everyone contributes a very small amount (only $1 per month per household) for services which everyone has access to and uses.

The NRC has used the rationale that rescue services are not core business, but the evolution of almost all rescue services has started in small communities, and is driven by our inherent desire as people to help one another. That’s what communities are all about.

This is where we need your help …

The NRC has provided an option in the consultation document which could see community funding for emergency services continue at the current level.

We know how hard things are for Northland households at the moment, but we would urge you to support (at the very least) a continuation of what you’re currently giving to help fund rescue services in your community.

In order to create a submission to the NRC and have your voice count, you will need to go to www.nrc.govt/futureplan

 

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