Originally written by CATHY HARBISON
A SECOND petition containing 8959 signatures to Parliament requesting an emergency rescue helicopter in western Victoria has been presented to parliament.
The majority of signatures (7162) were collected by Hamilton’s Geoff Downes who circulated the petition around Hamilton, Balmoral, Cavendish, Macarthur, Byaduk, Coleraine and Casterton.
This petition, presented by Member for South West Coast, Denis Napthine, follows one he presented on September 20, containing 7124 signatures, predominantly collected in Portland, Warrnambool and Branxholme.
The total of signatures have reached 16,083.
Using the formal wording required by Parliament the petition read:
“The petition of the citizens of western Victoria draw to the attention of the house the lack of a multifunction emergency helicopter rescue service based in Warrnambool.
The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Assembly of Victoria immediately provide a rescue helicopter for the region, as western Victoria remains the only area of the state not covered by an emergency helicopter service.
Our desired helicopter service would include air ambulance, fire fighting capabilities, day and night search and rescue facilities and would be available for onshore, coastal and offshore operations.
We seek a speedy establishment of such a helicopter to cover all of western Victoria.”
“This is certainly one of the biggest petitions I’ve seen in nearly two decades in politics,” Dr Napthine said.
“This is a fantastic effort for all involved and clearly shows the need to have an emergency helicopter based in the Warrnambool region.
“I would like to thank everyone who has collected signatures and also those who have signed – this sends a strong message to Premier Brumby that a helicopter is desperately needed in western Victoria. This fight is not over by any stretch of the imagination.
“I understand there are already plans to distribute the petition in areas such as Horsham, Ararat, Halls Gap and the Northern Grampians.”
Campaign organiser, Keith Meerbach, has also written to Premier Brumby and Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Bob Cameron, on several occasions detailing the need for an emergency rescue service.
He has stated that in cases of severe illness or trauma, where transfer to Melbourne is imperative and time-critical, helicopter transfers are faster than fixed-wing aircraft as no stretcher transfers are required. Neither are additional road trips by ambulance needed at both ends of the journey.
In his letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Meerbach reminded him of his success in 2001 when he secured an emergency helicopter based at Bendigo using the argument that “Bendigo is 100 minutes away from Melbourne by road ambulance”.
“Does Portland, being five hours away from Melbourne, somehow not qualify?
”Please forget party politics, when Mr Bracks first formed our Labor Government, he promised that Labor would govern for all Victorians.
“I ask you: was this true and does this still apply today? If not, why not?
“Currently if emergencies occur simultaneously in various parts of the state, who has to wait?
“And if a Melbourne-based chopper was directed to wet Victoria, doesn’t that put four million people at increased risk?
“It would seem to make absolute sense to add to Victoria’s infrastructure and provide west Victoria with a multipurpose rescue helicopter.”
And 16,083 residents from western Victoria clearly agree with Mr Meerbach.