VIDEO: New helibase takes off at Lismore Airport
CUTTING of the ribbon symbolised the beginning of a new chapter in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter's history with the official opening of the helibase at Lismore Regional Airport.
Minister for Health Brad Hazard, NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan and State Members for Ballina and Lismore, Tamara Smith and Thomas George were among the about 140 guests who gathered today at the new $5 million state-of-the-art facility.
Nearly three times the size of the former base, the headquarters houses the entire rescue chopper outfit under the one roof with two, $18 million Augusta Westland 139 choppers and rescue equipment.
Adjoining the hangar is the main building which includes accommodation for doctors and paramedics, an operations centre, a training and meeting room, medical storage and a gym.
The new base is part of the $151 million statewide Helicopter Retrieval Network Service, which is the single biggest government investment in aeromedical services in the state's history, Mr Harzard said.
Helicopter chief executive Richard Jones said the organisation has prepared for the statewide network since about 2012. He was grateful for the community's on-going support for the vital service.
"We are thrilled that the community's own rescue helicopter has now evolved to what is now rated in the top five aeromedical services in the world, and I think that is a real tribute," Mr Jones said.
Long-time volunteer Mary Betteridge referred to the helicopter as 'our baby' that has been nurtured through decades of fundraising to provide "a service money couldn't buy" for those in need.
"I think the way they've got it with the ambos and the helicopter we are so lucky we live in a lucky country," Ms Betteridge said.
Founder of the northern region service, Elton Cummings and Northern NSW Local Health District chairman Brian Pezzutti, one of the first doctors who assisted with the service, also attended and reflected on its 35 year history.