Winch waste leaves Lismore Westpac rescue base unstaffed
LISMORE is sacrificing its Westpac Rescue helicopters because a neighbouring base in Tamworth lacks the gear it needs.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has told parliament the choppers in his electorate required winching capability in order to do their job properly.
He said they now relied on their better-equipped neighbours to respond to emergencies, potentially leaving the Lismore base unstaffed when crises of its own cropped up.
"The helicopter service was ordered to cease winching operations in 2013 following an aeromedical retrieval report that raised safety concerns about the low amount of winching being conducted in the area and subsequently recommended that operations be suspended," Mr Anderson said.
"I believe the time has come to review that decision."
Mr Anderson asked around and discovered there had been a duplication of services on a number of occasions.
"For example, the Tamworth service was tasked with a job but when the helicopter arrived it was discovered that winching was required and either Lismore or Newcastle was tasked to attend, with the Tamworth helicopter being sent back to base," he said.
"In some cases, the Tamworth helicopter and paramedics had to stay on the ground at the incident to provide relief while waiting for the additional helicopter to arrive.
"It was reported to me that there were dual responses on approximately six occasions."
Mr Andrews said out-of-area helicopters from four hours away had been tasked to incidents while the Tamworth chopper sat on the ground just eight minutes away.
"At times this has left Lismore or Newcastle without aerial cover," he said.
Tamworth will get a new AW139 AgustaWestland helicopter in May next year.
Mr Anderson said it was the perfect time to reinstate winch training for crew members.
Westpac Rescue has been contacted for comment. -APN NEWSDESK