Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery is urging councillors to take a stand against plans to axe the Illawarra’s emergency helicopter service.
Cr Bradbery will use his mayoral minute at tonight's meeting to move that the council formally register its concern over the proposal to ‘‘move the Wollongong helicopter service and crew to the planned new Sydney helicopter base’’.
An independent Ernst & Young review claims the government could save millions of dollars each year by moving the Illawarra chopper and cutting helicopters at other bases without ‘‘significantly affecting’’ response times to patients.
Cr Bradbery said the move would have a ‘‘detrimental impact’’ on the Illawarra, which had already been chosen by the State Emergency Service and NSW Fire and Rescue as the location for their major regional headquarters.
NSW Health recognises Wollongong Hospital as ‘‘the largest’’ of the district’s nine hospitals, treating more than 47,000 patients annually, Cr Bradbery said.
He is calling for a ‘‘full stakeholder engagement with other emergency services in the region, together with detailed information on the potential impact’’ before any decision is made.
Council should also write to Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher and Minister for the Illawarra Gregory Pearce to show their opposition, Cr Bradbery said.
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson has urged community groups and individuals to lodge their submissions by the February 28 cut-off date.
Ms Watson has written to Health Minister Jillian Skinner slamming the advice, which she said was not based on solid evidence.
‘‘The recommendation in the review is flimsy, ad-hoc and cavalier and I have urged the Minister to reject it outright,’’ she said. The region’s Rotary clubs are also in the fight, holding meetings with councils and circulating a petition initiated by Kiama MP Gareth Ward.
‘‘It is necessary for everyone in the Illawarra to voice their concerns to their local politicians to save the move of this service by joining the petition which has been raised by those who are most concerned,’’ Wollongong Rotary president Leigh Robinson said.
The government will release its response to the review once the formal submission period closes next week.
Petitions can be sent to Wollongong Rotary at PO Box 14, Wollongong, 2500, or to Gareth Ward’s Kiama office. They must be lodged as originals.