Jet Boat frozen out for 'failing to join Marine Rescue'

MARINE Area Command ignored Ballina Jet Boat's requests for details of "deficiencies" that may have averted its loss of accreditation, Jet Boat president Gary Murphy has said.

Responding to Police and Emergency Services minister Michael Gallacher's stripping of the rescue vessel's primary rescue accreditation, Mr Murphy said an audit of the organisation in February last year was a ramification of the organisation not joining Marine Rescue NSW as part of a new one agency marine rescue model.

"We are a very proud Surf Life Saving asset," he said.

It was revealed last year, after the Jet Boat came to the rescue when Ballina's Marine Rescue boat flipped during a rescue on the Ballina Bar and less than two months after the audit, that police had been instructed not to call the Jet Boat in an emergency.

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The Jet Boat organisation did not comment publicly on the issue at the time, but the Kingscliff Coast Guard revealed the contents of a letter sent to them, the Jet Boat and another coast guard group that refused to join Marine Rescue, claiming their training records were not up to date.

Yesterday, Mr Murphy said the Jet Boat had made inquiries with Marine Area Command about training records and supposed breaches of policy with the intention of resolving the issue, but the requests fell on deaf ears.

"The standard operating procedure of State Rescue Board requires that our unit be given a copy of the audit, which has never happened," he said.

"We asked what training was required in addition to our Surf Life Saving qualifications and this has not been advised.

The standard operating procedure of State Rescue Board requires that our unit be given a copy of the audit, which has never happened

- Jet Boat president Gary Murphy

"Our accreditation was limited to Ballina bar, thus we sought clarification on what exactly was required."

Mr Murphy also defended the level of training given to Jet Boat volunteers.

"Our active members must be a proficient and active member of a surf life saving club to be eligible for membership and active service for Ballina Jet Boat," he said.

Mr Murphy rejected claims that current response arrangements were working effectively for incidents where the Ballina Jet Boat was the most appropriate response unit.

"This infers that our services are no longer required for aquatic rescue and Marine Rescue NSW is able to service the Ballina Bar and incidents on headlands where access by water (and swimming) is required," he said

"If this is the true position of Marine Rescue NSW for Ballina Jet Boat then we are deeply concerned for the future of people in need when the bar is impassable or for a Headland incident."

Jet Boat could have been better handled, says Ballina MP

LOCAL and state government representatives agree the issue of stripping the Ballina Jet Boat of its primary accreditation could have been handled better, without tainting the organisation's excellent reputation.

Ballina MP Don Page, who had supported the jet boat since the 1990s, said there was no need to potentially tarnish the Ballina Jet Boat's exemplary rescue service over four decades.

"They have done an excellent job for our community over four decades, two of them as an accredited primary marine rescue organisation," he said.

Mr Page said he discussed the issue with minister Gallacher's office and was told the problems arose with training and compliance because Surf Life Saving and Marine Rescue had different accreditation procedures.

It's amazing they can win awards for bravery and saving lives and then something like this can happen

- Ballina mayor David Wright

"The good news is that the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat will continue to operate as normal under 13 Surf arrangements," he said. "And I expect that the good and cooperative relationship between all emergency organisations in Ballina will continue."

Ballina Mayor David Wright hoped the issues concerning accreditation of the jet boat could be resolved.

"It's amazing they can win awards for bravery and saving lives and then something like this can happen," he said.

"We have two good vessels at Ballina and we need both of them going to rescues."

After a recent visit by government agencies, which all supported the Port of Ballina plan, Mr Wright said it was imperative issues concerning the jet boat were sorted out before the waterways became busier.

"Hopefully it can get fixed up so the Marine Rescue and Ballina Jet Boat can work together."

OPINION: Madness to leave Jet Boat idle

IT IS nearly a year ago that the Ballina Jet Boat was involved in one of the most dramatic rescues ever seen on Ballina's treacherous bar.

The boat and its brave crew received a call out at 2am after two vessels got into trouble in wild conditions.

They ended up plucking five people from the water under the most difficult of circumstances.

Earlier, the Marine Rescue boat had capsized while trying to save a motor cruiser crossing the bar.

It left the crew of both vessels clutching to the hull of one of the boats while another crew member was trapped in an air pocket underneath.

The Marine Rescue crew had tried twice to attach a tow-rope to the cruiser, but each time the ropes became entangled in the vessel's propellers.

They were hit by a couple of big waves and ended up on the rocks with everyone being thrown overboard.

Enter the Ballina Jet Boat. The crew pulled off a textbook recovery operation and got everyone back to shore safely.

They rightly deserved all the plaudits for performing this rescue against great odds.

But now bureaucratic red tape has got in the way with Police and Emergency Services minister Michael Gallacher's office stripping the Ballina Jet Boat of its primary accreditation.

This is madness at a time where we should be able to call upon more resources to perform rescues, not fewer.

It leaves the coastal community in our region dangerously exposed.

This decision needs to be reversed and quickly.


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