THE Evans Head flotilla of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard is being forced to merge its services into the newly-formed Marine Rescue NSW organisation, but local members are not happy.
At a regular meeting tonight, Northern NSW Squadron Commander Peter Campton will add-ress the merger issue and help to alleviate fears members still have about the forced amalgamation.
But Evans Head flotilla commander John Frankham said there were serious concerns about aspects of the merger, particularly with regard to money held by individual flotillas.
Mr Frankham said the most worrying aspect of the merger was the req-uirement by the NSWGovernment to sign over all money held by individual flotillas.
Mr Campton said there was an understanding that Marine Rescue NSW would not touch thatmoney, and that it would remain under the control of individual flotillas.
But Mr Frankham said members had yet to be convinced.
Evans Head flotilla member Phil Wernicke said the greatest concern was the loss of more than 40 years’ local experience gained through the vol-unteer efforts of the Northern NSW Squadron, an organisation ini-tially started by Evans Head founding member Ron Doyle.
Mr Wernicke said the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard had a nat-ionally-recognised training program which would be adopted by Marine Rescue NSW.
He quoted National Commodore Ray Campbell as saying the well-developed organisation had 5000 members among 69 flotillas with 113 vessels that last year rescued 5000 people in 3000 boats and responded to 250,000 radio calls.
“Why change it?” he said.
Squadron commander Campton said he emphasised to Evans Head members that he had 23 years’ experience in the coast guard.
“I have a fair bit of loyalty to the organisation,” he said. “But the State Government has left us no choice but to join Marine Rescue NSW.”
Mr Campton said the move would reduce duplication of administration and costs associated with having three different marine rescue organisations in the State.