Chopper service needs rescue
THE TREATMENT of life threatening emergency situations on the Fraser Coast could come under a threat of its own without a boost in support for the AGL Helicopter Rescue.
The emergency service has already secured the support of Fraser Coast councillor Anne Nioa and Hervey Bay Boat Club as it moves to cover ever-steepening multi-million dollar costs.
AGL Action Rescue’s business development officer, Colin Brown, has targeted Fraser Coast businesses and organisations in an effort to create a stronger profile for the service here.
“I think people don’t realise that it’s a community asset, it’s community owned, the community has a stake in it,” he said.
It is a view shared by Anne Nioa, chair of the council’s tourism committee, who has put her support behind the push for funds.
“Because they are not based here their profile is not as high here as it is on the Sunshine Coast and in Bundaberg.
“Tourism is so big in this region, the service is critical to the safety of our visitors, especially on Fraser Island.”
AGL Rescue regularly deals with roll-overs and a variety of recreational accidents on Fraser Island including near drownings, spinal injuries and burns and stings.
Since 2008, the rescue service has rescued or carried 195 patients that were tourists or visitors to the region, or 97 per year.
“It is certain that when people know and understand that they can get urgent, medical attention when they are anywhere in the Fraser Coast region, it is a positive to the tourism industry,” Mr Brown said.
AGL Helicopter Rescue was called into action more than 150 times on the Fraser Coast in 2009, an average of three times a week.
Each mission took, on average, 90 minutes flight time at a cost of $3500 per hour. It is conservatively estimated that the service to the Fraser Coast costs about $780,000 a year.
It costs over $500,000 to service the visitors to the Fraser Coast region only, on an annual basis.
“We’ve been doing it for 30 years and we’ve never charged a cent to the people who needed it,” Mr Brown said.
It costs about $8 million a year to run the two AGL bases at Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast.