Volunteers feeling the Pinch
By GENEVIEVE ALLPASS
ONE of our most important rescue units on the Tweed is finding it difficult to make ends meet after rising fuel costs have put the squeeze on their already stretched finances. Volunteer Marine Rescue public relations officer John Gnech said times are so bad that they were struggling even to make money from their most recent fundraiser. "We have a raffle going at the moment and people just aren't able to buy the tickets because I think the fuel prices are hurting everybody," he said. "It's not getting any easier for us to get money and it's not getting any easier for the public to afford to donate." Mr Gnech said the fuel-price hike is definitely affecting the squad because it has to wear the full cost of the increases. "Our number one priority is the upkeep on our rescue vessels and then our radio facilities and we find it very difficult to make ends meet under these circumstances. "Our second vessel operates on unleaded and we do not get any rebate back so we bear the full brunt of the cost." Point Danger II does the majority of the rescue unit's work and goes through anything from 38 litres an hour to 90 litres an hour depending on the rescue area, Mr Gnech said. "For emergency services like ours it would be a great assistance to us if we could get a decent subsidy or exemption through taxes," he said. "The costs come out of a general expense account but that of course only goes so far." Covering from Ballina to Southport, the vessels go 10 nautical miles out to sea and average 120 search and rescue missions a year. There are 130 volunteers involved in the unit that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
p ELAINE Fowler and May Chilcott from the Volunteer Marine Rescue unit know just how important the fundraising raffle is to the rescue team at this time after rising fuel costs have stretched the group to its limits. Photo: CRAIG SADLER D92941