Thursday 22 November 2012

Hansard of the Legislative Council





Mr Finch (Rosevears) - It may be news to some of the members here that the marine rescue system around Tasmania has been restructured to make it more effective and the eight volunteer rescue services now have an assured future. All eight volunteer marine rescue groups, including the one based on the Tamar in my electorate, the Tamar Sea Rescue, affiliate with Surf Life Saving Tasmania during this year. The volunteer organisations have gone through challenging and, at times, even threatening moments over the past few years. What was formerly called the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol has been facing a very uncertain future, stabilised to a certain extent when David Llewellyn took an interest and involved the groups in Coastguard Australia. However, that has not been as successful as everyone hoped.

Speaking for my own electorate, the Tamar division of the patrol have had to raise all their own funding. They have been very successful at that because of the job they do. A few years ago they got an unwanted vessel from New South Wales, the Goondooloo II, and had it refitted at their own expense. It is a fantastic vessel. It has performed numerous sea rescues and won quite a lot of awards including the Australian naval award for the most efficient division in Australia; very prestigious. The Goondooloo II has helped in more than 70 emergency sea rescues.

The honourable member for Windermere might be interested in the fact that recently we had the blessing of a new police launch called the Protector IV which was on its way to Flinders Island. Sadly, when I went there they were on a rescue operation. You may remember the kayaker who died in Bass Strait - it was involved in that rescue. Bryn Warrick was the radio operator and the rescue was taking place as we blessed the Protector IV.

The volunteer groups are at Tamar, St Helens, St Helens Point, Freycinet, Dodges Ferry, Prince of Wales Bay, Kettering and Ulverstone. They now all operate with Surf Life Saving Tasmania's three services and they, of course, have their own rescue boats and what are called rescue personal watercraft. This means that all 22 surf lifesaving and volunteer rescue groups around Tasmania now operate under the one umbrella organisation, Surf Life Saving Tasmania, which then disperses financial support to these volunteer groups for their operating expenditure and also helps with expenses such as fuel which, in this day and age, can be quite costly.

The restructuring of our coastal rescue services has led to faster and better communications in a marine emergency. If you make a triple zero call or public notification to any police station, that now goes immediately to the police radio room and after assessment goes to one of five duty officers who have a list of resources and assets. A call then goes to that representative who advises on the appropriate resources and whether they can then help with the emergency. The whole process is faster and more efficient. A rescue vessel can be at sea quickly and in the right place, and it really is a classic example of combining rescue resources at optimum efficiency.

I must admit when I first heard that the organisations were going to come under Surf Life Saving Tasmania I questioned the wisdom of that, that they were going to be the overarching body with that responsibility for allocating the funds, but it seems to be working. I have spoken just recently to the Tamar Sea Rescue and they are quite happy with the circumstance, as are St Helens, but there are some minor details to be ironed out in other areas.

Surf Life Saving Tasmania provides a tremendous amount of support to these volunteer groups with development, activation of relevant competency frameworks - which are very important in this day and age - delivery of training packages and ongoing training. They write standard operating procedures, they provide access to administrative support through Surf Life Saving Tasmania and give access to national expertise. They coordinate, promote and lobby for and on behalf of the groups. They give assistance in a coordinated approach to grant writing and sponsorship. They help coordinate and implement search and rescue exercises in some of the regions involving the police, ambulance and the volunteer rescue groups, and the more of those the more skilled the operators will become.

With this restructuring there were some reservations and feelings of insecurity and there are probably still a few, but generally I can say that those who go to sea in boats should applaud this arrangement for our sea rescue services that now exists with Surf Life Saving Tasmania.

Members - Hear, hear.