Turf war takes to the air again

A HELICOPTER rescue service fundraising turf war has erupted again on the Northern Rivers.

The Queensland-based RACQCareFlight has again infuriated the local Westpac Life Saver RescueHelicopter by participating in a Northern Rivers fundraising event.

The Queensland service stands to collect the proceeds of a charity bike ride that kicks off through Northern NSW today.

The ride from Tweed Heads will wind through Lennox Head, Lismore, Kyogle and finish at Murwillumbah.

While the RACQ CareFlight chopper does occasionally operate in Northern NSW, the Westpac helicopter also operates in CareFlight’s territory but restricts its fundraising activities to this side of the border, and believes CareFlight should respect the same agreement.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter’s business development manager Nyree Epplett contacted CareFlight management this week, but to no avail.

“This week we launched a fund-raising appeal that is critical to the future sustainability of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter,” Ms Epplett said.

“I just hope the public is not misled into making a donation to the wrong rescue-helicopter service.

“There isn’t enough charity dollars available as it is, and we don’t need an outside helicopter service coming in and asking people in our region to support them.

“We lead by example by neverfundraising in other rescue helicopter areas.

“There are only so many charity dollars available and, frankly, this is extremely poor form.”

CareFlight was unrepentant and responded with a statement stating it was approached by a community club based at Murwillumbah which offered to host a charity bike ride to raise funds for the Queenslandservice.

CareFlight is sticking to its argument that it receives almost half of its annual operating budget from the community and relies on ‘generous groups and individuals to host events to generate funds’, which is true, only it failed to acknowledge that the Westpac helicopter service is also in the same predicament.

“The event in question is taking place inside RACQ CareFlight Rescue’s primary flight region, which includes Murwillumbah and the neighbouring areas of Tweed Heads, Byron Bay and Ballina,” the statement said.

“These areas are regularly visited by our crew as part of the hundreds of lifesaving patient rescues ourhelicopters perform every year.”

The dispute has been going on for some years and flared up six months ago when people on the Northern Rivers reported being contacted by telemarketers collecting for CareFlight who were implying they were fundraising for the ‘local’ helicopter service.

CareFlight denied this saying that it did not perform telephone fund-raising in NSW, and had no plans to do so in the future.

The Westpac helicopter has asked residents who want to support the local service to be sure who they are donating to.

“CareFlight telemarketing in this area is bad enough, but to now beendorsing fundraising events outside their own flight area is really too much,” Ms Epplett said.

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