Tony Bullimore died the other day, and it reminded me of the scrap that was had over his rescue at the time.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, Bullimore was one of those people who wandered around the world on a yacht and periodically got in trouble and needed rescuing.

The most famous of these was off the coast of Western Australia after four days under a capsized hull.


Although the rescue was dramatic and everyone was thrilled to see the survival, the question was asked, given it involved the Australian navy and very large ships: what the hell did that cost?

And so ensued the debate over whether someone, somewhere should be picking up the tab, other than the Australian taxpayer.

And here we are all these years later, and the Terry Harch case has raised the same issue.

Three of the four members of the Wanaka Search and Rescue alpine cliff rescue team that rescued Terry Harch.
Three of the four members of the Wanaka Search and Rescue alpine cliff rescue team that rescued Terry Harch.

Terry Harch was rescued from Mt Aspiring the other week. And the details are the bill is at least 150 grand, not including the hours of volunteer work.

And it's not unreasonable to ask why?

There is the tourism angle, we want people to come here, and some will get lost, some will need help. We want people

We want people to explore our countryside, that's the price you pay for open access.

It doesn't happen that often, so it's not like its sending us broke.

They're all semi-reasonable arguments.

But none quite get across the line for me. Somewhere in there, is the intangible of attitude.

If you know nothing is a problem, and there is no accountability, and there is no bill, the level of attention and responsibility is never quite the same.

You know when you travel to America a hospital costs a fortune so you cover yourself, you don't aim to get sick or hospitalised. But you're cognisant of the chances, and the risk, and you act accordingly.

The approach those who tackle our mountains would take would be different if they knew rescue wasn't free.

It might mean fewer went up, and mountain clubs may well claim that's a shame.

And it's not like these sort of things are being abused. It's not like climbers and mountaineers are taking the mick, and going and getting lost for fun.

But as in all things in life someone, somewhere is footing a bill.

So why am I, as a taxpayer, paying for an Australian to live out his adventures, dreams and challenges, while he takes no responsibility at all?

As they hauled Bullimore out of the ocean (and by the way they did it more than once, he was a serial offender) the overarching view was that if find your jollies in danger - you pay for it.

I can't see why Terry Harch is any different.