The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS) has moved its operations from its former city base at Harbour Town to the Aldinga Aerodrome in an effort to cut response times on the South Coast and Fleurieu Peninsula.
“Residential demographic projections for Adelaide are indicating that populations along the South Coast and the Fleurieu Peninsula will continue to grow in the coming years and we need to prepare for the impact on beach visitations and coastal emergencies that growth will have” said Surf Life Saving SA CEO Ms Clare Harris.
The Fleurieu Peninsula was highlighted in the National Coastal Safety Report as a lifesaving blackspot after a spate of drownings in 2015. Since then Surf Life Saving SA and State and Local Governments have worked to bolster lifesaving services in the area investing in a new Club at Goolwa, a rebuild at Chiton Rocks and a planned rebuild for Port Elliot Surf Life Saving Club next year. Increasing the frequency of aerial patrols in the area is part of the risk mitigation strategy to cater to Adelaide’s most popular holiday destination and growing local populations.
“The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service provides fantastic aerial surveillance capabilities which are used in search and rescue missions as well as in identifying hazards in the water such as sharks and pollutants. Our metro coast is bisected by flight paths here in Adelaide and at times our patrol service is delayed by air traffic control. Whilst this doesn’t affect emergency responses we will be able to cover more sky in a day if we patrol from the southern side of Adelaide Airport here at Aldinga. We anticipate being able to double our frequency of flyovers from Aldinga to Goolwa and still maintain our coverage of metro areas with this move.” said Ms Harris.
The base’s move has been made possible by a long term re-investment from major partner Westpac who announced it has extended its support of the local Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS) for five years – taking its local partnership 18 years and 49 years nationally, making it one of the longest community partnerships in Australia.
Ms Harris said “Having the security of a major partner like Westpac has allowed us to plan for the future with security. We would not be able to deliver this vital community service without the dedication of our crew and the support of Westpac. Over the years we have made many strong relationships with Westpac’s staff in South Australia and have seen first-hand how committed they are to helping our local community.”
Between October 2017 and April 2018, the WLRHS in South Australia completed a total of 49 missions and logged over 200 flight hours including search and rescue, shark patrol and community events; demonstrating the tireless dedication of the crew to help keep the local community safe.
Lester Wynne-Jones, State General Manager for Westpac in South Australia, said Westpac is proud to support the vital community service provided by the WLRHS, which has been operating in the state since 2005 - with no one ever having to pay to be rescued.
“Over the past 13 years we have witnessed the critical role this Service plays in saving lives in South Australia, which resulted in last year being the safest in a decade. We can’t thank the crew enough for their unwavering commitment to helping those in the local community when they need it most.”
WLRHS crewman and Henley Beach local Geoff Brennecke has been volunteering for lifesaving rescue services in South Australia for almost 40 years and has performed more than 950 patrol hours. He has since received numerous awards for his contribution to the community, including the SA Emergency Services Medal.
"From starting out as the youngest to join, and now as one of the oldest crew members, it has been a great pleasure to train and work with so many dedicated and inspiring people," Geoff said.
Over 300 rescue professionals and volunteers make up the WLRHS national operation, which has 17 helicopters and two rescue boats across 13 bases. During summer, the Service covers over 84 per cent of the Australian population.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service plays the major role in the State Government’s Aerial Patrol Service which will be joined later in the season by the fixed wing shark spotting plane and the introduction of Surf Life Saving Remote Piloted Aircraft Service (surveillance Drones). The State Governments commitment to maintaining safety on South Australian Beaches continues to deepen with the announcement today of funding for frontline rescue equipment for each South Australian Surf Life Saving Club to the value of $5,000 per club for 2 years with a total commitment of $420,000.
Emergency Services Minister Hon. Mr Corey Wingard said “The Marshall Government recognises the value and significance of supporting South Australia’s surf lifesaving clubs whose members watch over hundreds of beachgoers during summer.”
“As the weather gets warmer and more people are drawn to the sea for their recreation, we are reminded of the valuable work provided by dedicated surf life saving volunteers at our most popular beaches,” he said.
“The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter adds extra support to this important service which will be a reassuring sight as it patrols the coast and beaches this summer.”
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service patrols began this weekend and will continue on weekends and public holidays until after the Easter break.”