Commander John Purnell.
Commander John Purnell.

Coastguard fights for its autonomy

KINGSCLIFF Coastguard and the State Government remain at loggerheads over the new Maritime Rescue New South Wales body.

The formation of Maritime Rescue NSW was designed to amalgamate the three existing volunteer marine rescue organisations in New South Wales.

But John Purnell of Kingscliff Coastguard, which is part of the Australian Volunteer Coastguard Association, wants to remain independent of it.

“It’s a good idea, however how they’re going about it is all wrong,” Commander Purnell said.

“The NSW Police Department would be in charge of it and they’d make us do all the rescues instead of 76 per cent.

“This would be okay, except the new organisation would want our boats and equipment, which our volunteers have worked hard for.”

Cdr Purnell said if the Coastguard became part of the new body the government could allocate its resources elsewhere.

“Our equipment belongs to the community; it’s more than half a million dollars worth,” he said.

In a Kingscliff Coastguard vote, members voted 98 per cent against the amalgamation; however they do not have much choice.

“They’ve said they’re going to wipe us out,” Cdr Purnell said.

“They’ll dis-endorse us, strip our charity status and take all our licences from us.”

Cdr Purnell said no action has been taken yet by Maritime Rescue NSW because the body has been delayed with insurance issues.

He added the Kingscliff Coastguard would agree to amalgamate if Water Police Inspector Glenn Finniss would guarantee, in writing, that their station would remain open for the next three years and ensure they maintained all their own equipment.

There are many questions surrounding the Maritime Rescue NSW body, Cdr Purnell said, including where all the money raised by local communities would go.

Cdr Purnell said the new body was introduced because of disorganisation problems on Sydney Harbour.

“It’s a big shemozzle down there,” he said.

“We have an organisation about every 30 miles up here from Coffs Harbour and everyone loves it.”

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