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Feedback sought on council loan for rescue helicopters

21 Jul 2017

Northland Regional Council is seeking feedback on a proposal to provide Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) with a $9.8 million loan, to help fund two rescue helicopters for the region.

With its current helicopters needing to be replaced soon, NEST has found two suitable Sikorsky S-76C helicopters available for purchase.

Council chairman Bill Shepherd says the regional council is fortunate to have access to better interest rates (through the Local Government Funding Agency) than NEST could get elsewhere.

Under the proposal, the council would use a portion of this low-interest borrowing capacity to give NEST a $9.8 million loan for the two rescue helicopters, saving NEST around $200,000 a year in interest over the five-year period of the loan.

While it would tie-up about half of council’s current low-interest borrowing capacity, the proposed loan would have no impact on people’s rates.

“Rescue helicopters are a critical service for the region which, as previous feedback from our community has told us, is really valued by Northlanders,” says Bill.

“We want to check in with our community before we make a final decision, and we encourage people to give us their feedback on the proposal.”

The regional council has supported the rescue helicopter service for the past eight years through a targeted rate, and currently provides NEST with $525,000 per year from its contestable fund for emergency services.

“It’s important to emphasise that this new proposal doesn’t change any of the existing funding,” says Bill.

“Rather, this loan would be an additional way we can support NEST and the provision of emergency air rescue services in Northland.”