Simon Fogerty and Mark Puglisi of the Ballina Rescue Jet Boat.
Simon Fogerty and Mark Puglisi of the Ballina Rescue Jet Boat. Jay Cronan

Rescue Association coordinator slams Jet Boat blacklist

LIVES could be at risk as the Ballina Jet Boat can't be called by police to incidents, says the Far North Coast Volunteer Rescue Association regional co-ordinator.

Noel Ball said as police are the lead organisation in control of emergencies, it made no sense that under new protocol, the Ballina Jet Boat can only be called by Surf Lifesaving.

"The jet boat is no longer an asset to the police, they will not call them, and that's where delays could endanger lives," he said.

"Police have lost control of that asset, and in times of emergency that is crucial.

"In an emergency there may have to be three phone calls made before the jet boat gets tasked to a rescue, and time is crucial."

This is an organisation that had been helping people at Ballina for 42 years and, as part of the Surf Life Saving movement, is part of a proud tradition of volunteering and service stretching back over more than a century.

Mr Ball said not joining Marine Rescue NSW had impacted on several marine rescue units on the far north coast which had been or were stripped of their accreditation.

"Within the Northern Rivers Region; the Ballina Jet Boat, the Australian Volunteer Coastguard Kingscliff flotilla and the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association affiliate at Hastings Point were stripped of their Marine Rescue accreditation."

He said in an emergency the Marine Rescue NSW Tweed unit would be dispatched to situations on the Tweed Coast rather than the closer volunteer rescue association units.

"The cancelling of the Marine Rescue Accreditation from these units will place lives at risk."

Mr Ball questioned who would accept responsibility in the event of a death.

"Who will accept responsibility should a tragedy occur and the coroner finds the loss of the local unit was the contributing factor for the delay of rescue to arrive on scene?," he said.

Noel Ball, pictured with his daughter and granddaughter, when he was named Richmond Valley Council's Citizen of the Year in 2012.
Noel Ball, pictured with his daughter and granddaughter, when he was named Richmond Valley Council's Citizen of the Year in 2012. Jay Cronan

OPINION: Bureaucratic bullying of the Ballina Jet Boat is unacceptable

THERE was a certain bureaucratic logic to the combining of NSW's various marine rescue and coastguard organisations under a single Volunteer Marine Rescue organisation a few years ago. 

After all, it works for the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service - so why shouldn't volunteers who help people at sea be under a single umbrella?

The benefits would be the groups would all be easier to administer and resource if they were all under a single umbrella and a standardised training system would ensure all groups had the skill levels needed to help people in trouble and to do it safely.

Had the Volunteer Marine Rescue group been set up 50 years ago maybe it wouldn't have been such an issue, but instead it is trying to round up disparate services, at least one of which is already connected to an existing volunteer group with a long, proud, and successful history.

I'm talking, of course, about the Ballina Jet Boat.

It's a bullying tactic they might be able to justify in the context of rounding up the mixed bag of coastguards and marine rescue groups around NSW. To direct such tactics at the Jet Boat and, by association, Surf Life Saving NSW is just plain insulting

However, when it was revealed in April last year, in the wake of the Jet Boat's spectacular rescue of the Marine Rescue boat and crew, police had been told not to call the Jet Boat for help, it seemed like an absurdity that couldn't last.

This is an organisation that had been helping people at Ballina for 42 years and, as part of the Surf Life Saving movement, is part of a proud tradition of volunteering and service stretching back over more than a century.

As the year progressed it was hard not to get the feeling the Jet Boat was being treated a bit like the naughty kid in the class. While Surf Life Saving NSW and Surf Life Saving Australia piled well-deserved accolades on the Ballina Jet Boat crew, the official state-level bravery award nomination from NSW Police was only for the - undoubtedly deserving - Marine Rescue crew.

Now we learn the Jet Boat was last year pro-actively and constructively trying to resolve the "training issues" that had blotted the group's otherwise spotless record with Marine Area Command. Essentially, the Jet Boat wanted to know the hoops it needed to jump through to satisfy the departmental box-tickers at Marine Area Command.

However, the Jet Boat's requests for information went unanswered, giving the clear message, no matter the actual wording of the rules, you either join Marine Rescue or you're out.

It's a bullying tactic they might be able to justify in the context of rounding up the mixed bag of coastguards and marine rescue groups around NSW. To direct such tactics at the Jet Boat and, by association, Surf Life Saving NSW is just plain insulting.

- Alex Easton


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