Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson last night submitted a Private Members Statement in the NSW Parliament calling for winching capabilities to be reinstated to the New England Northwest Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service based at Tamworth.


Mr Anderson said the helicopter service was ordered to cease winching operations in 2013 following an aeromedical retrieval report which raised safety concerns with the low amount of winching being conducted in the area and subsequently recommended that operations be suspended.


“I believe the time has come to review that decision and there is a very strong case to reinstate winching in the New England Northwest as there are changing circumstances within wider and regional communities.


“It has been reported to me that when a winch is required on a mission in the New England Northwest , the Tamworth helicopter is overlooked while an out of area helicopter is tasked, this has at times left Lismore or Newcastle without aerial cover.


“I do not believe that this is a very inefficient use of an emergency resource and given the very high financial contribution by the community, they then have every reason to question such practice.


“Timing is everything, and it has been reported to me that an out of area helicopter was four hours away when tasked to our area while the Tamworth Helicopter sat on the ground just 8 minutes away from the incident.


“I believe there is real opportunity and reason to reinstate winching. At present the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service operates the BK117 helicopter, but a new aircraft the AW139 will be coming on line in Tamworth approximately May 2017.


“The time is right to reinstate training of our emergency service personnel in readiness for the new aircraft.


“As per my previous representations to the Minister, I again respectfully ask that a winching training program for local clinical crews be implemented so that they can once again perform that lifesaving operation from the Tamworth base should it be required.


“We have a highly professional and dedicated aeromedical retrieval service based in Tamworth and they should be provided the opportunity to use every rescue retrieval option available to them. Our communities depend on it,” Mr Anderson concluded.

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