Chopper trust to sue board

By Patrice Dougan

Rescue service says it may also take individuals to court over drastic cut to grant.

Financial backing for the rescue helicopter is set to be slashed by $450,000. Photo / APN
Financial backing for the rescue helicopter is set to be slashed by $450,000. Photo / APN

Members of a board which yesterday agreed to halve funding to the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust could find themselves in court after the trust said it may target individuals in a legal bid to overturn the decision.

Financial backing for the rescue helicopter is set to be slashed by $450,000 after the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board voted to implement the cut for the next financial year.

It follows a cut last year in which the rescue helicopter trust's grant dropped from $1.2 million to $900,000.

Yesterday's further reduction would mean the trust would receive $450,000 for the 2014/15 year.

It has vowed to take the board to court over the funding decision - a week after both sides appeared for a judicial review in the High Court in Auckland as the trust challenged last year's cut.

"As a result of [yesterday's] decision we will be suing them for the 2014/15 year," a spokesman for the helicopter trust said.

"We will be suing them as an entity and we will be exploring with our lawyers the possibilities of suing them as individuals,"

"We are not prepared to tolerate this any longer, this matter will have to be resolved in the courts again. And we will keep suing them until we win."

Helicopter trust chairman Murray Bolton said he was extremely disappointed but not surprised by the decision. "It's what we expected, really," he said.

Mr Bolton said the trust had no option but to go to court, "because otherwise they will just continue to cut us".

At $450,000, the grant represented only 5 per cent of the trust's operating costs, he said.

The rescue service was not in jeopardy but the cut would force the trust to look at "how we could pare back the service in some way", as well as curtailing future expansion.

Its second helicopter was cut from a 24-hour to 12-hour service to meet the funding shortfall of this financial year, he said.

Amenities board chairman Vern Walsh said the decision would now go to Auckland Council for approval.

Who gets what this year

* Auckland Arts Festival: $2.305m, up $75,000 on last year.
* APO: $2.942m, up $125,000.
* Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter: $450,000, down $450,000.
* Auckland Theatre Company: $1.415m, up $85,000.
* Coastguard Northern Region: $670,000, up $20,000.
* NZ Opera: $800,000, no change.
* Stardome Observatory: $1.269m, up $150,000.
* Surf Life Saving Northern Region: $1.2m, up $60,000.
* Voyager Maritime Museum: $1.975m, up $100,000.
* Watersafe Auckland: $970,000, up $50,000.
(Auckland Council will decide on March 27 whether to approve these proposals.)

- APNZ

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