‘Give us funding so we can keep saving lives’: VMR president
THE region’s marine rescue organisation has slammed Labor for lack of delivery nearly two years after a review into Queensland’s marine rescue operations.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Whitsunday president Mal Priday says his organisation is disappointed and frustrated by the lack of information and direction coming from the state government following the Blue Water Review, with lack of funding potentially preventing them from carrying out their core purpose of saving lives.
He said the aim of the review was to consider a move towards a single statewide organisation focused on marine rescue including aspects such as training, vessel selection and replacement and, importantly, funding.
“We get minimal funding compared to other states that have already implemented much-needed and more realistic drastic changes in that area,” he said.
“We get very little funding from the state at all - it’s a drop in the bucket - and it’s time for a new model that will allow us to do what we do, which is save lives.”
Mr Priday said not one of the 50 dedicated volunteers was paid, and VMR activations were growing each year.
“If marine rescue organisations are unable to continue operation, it would potentially create a situation where state assets such as Water Police would be overwhelmed with requests for assistance by boaties in trouble on the water,” he said.
“It would be nice to have that recognised with a more realistic funding model - the current model is many years old - that would allow us to concentrate on saving lives at sea rather than trying to raise funds so we can keep operating.”
Mr Priday said the Blue Water Review was instigated by the Minister for Emergency Services and the QFES Commissioner in 2018 to consider what marine rescue organisations in Queensland “should look like”.
“However, we have heard nothing since February. The initial report was completed early in 2019, and a working group was established to come up with recommendations, but after they completed their study the information coming out has been sparse.”
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said in a statement issued yesterday that no decision had been made on the future of Queensland’s volunteer marine rescue sector.
“The reason no decision has been made is, the government has made its priority addressing the issues arising from COVID-19 – that is keeping the people of Queensland safe,” he said.
“This has been the number one priority. The federal and state budgets have been postponed and there hasn’t been an opportunity to provide a response.”
VMR Whitsunday has been serving the boating and island communities of the Whitsundays under various names since 1964, saving lives at sea.
“Finalisation and implementation of the proposed review will give us and other rescue organisations a firm and reliable basis on which to plan and build on our future operations,” Mr Priday said.