Following the decision of the Tasmanian Government to end our licence to accept sponsorship and community funding to support the State’s helicopter rescue service, the Tasmanian Air Rescue Trust (trading as Westpac Helicopter Rescue Tasmania) will cease accepting donations, effective immediately.
As the Government’s action effectively means that we will be unable to raise funds to provide enhancements to the service beyond 14 January 2024, the Trust considers it no longer appropriate to accept funds from the community when it may not have the ability pass that money onto the helicopter rescue service. Therefore, we have reluctantly taken this decision.
This is a disappointing outcome, coming after the Trust’s 23 years of support and Westpac’s sponsorship of search and rescue services now extending over 30 years in Tasmania and 50 years nationally.
It remains unclear why the State Government has sought to refuse millions of dollars from the corporate sector, as well as funds from the broader community. Instead, the Government is seemingly determined to impose on the Tasmanian taxpayers the burden of funding state-of-the-art equipment, cutting-edge training and the like for the dedicated Police, Ambulance and Rotorlift crews that serve on the choppers to provide this vital service for our State.
The reality is that the Government’s action will do nothing positive for the service, but will put further strain on Tasmania’s already stretched health and police budgets.
Over the past 23 years, Westpac Rescue Helicopter Tasmania has provided millions of dollars to fund specialist training and equipment to support and enhance the service. This will now have to be met by taxpayers.
It is important to note that our charitable body consists of just one part-time employee and a volunteer board of directors who serve freely. Administration costs are kept to a minimum and these are funded in full by Westpac.
This means, the bulk of the Westpac’s sponsorship and all other sponsorships and community donations go directly to enhancing the helicopter rescue service.
In the past quarter alone, this has seen Westpac Rescue Helicopter Tasmania provide a quarter of a million dollars for training and equipment to support the service, with additional funding anticipated up to January 2024.
We have made a series of representations to the Tasmanian Government over the past year, seeking a reversal of its decision to not renew our sponsorship licence. This included pointing out to the Government that it was relying on erroneous and misleading figures in relation to the Trust’s actual contributions to the service and we provided the correct information.
Sadly, the State Government maintained its decision to move all funding liability of the Service onto Tasmanian taxpayers.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Tasmania sincerely thanks all our sponsors, supporters and those who have generously donated to support the service over the past 23 years.