26 Jul 2017

Loan for Northland rescue helicopters 'outside the council's core business'

8:31 am on 26 July 2017

The Ministry of Health, not the ratepayers, should be bankrolling Northland's rescue helicopter service, a Far North regional councillor says.

The Northland Emergency Services Trust rescue helicopter during a training exercise.

The Northland Emergency Services Trust rescue helicopter during a training exercise. Photo: Supplied / NEST

The Northland Regional Council is proposing to lend the Northland Emergency Services Trust nearly $10 million to replace its two helicopters.

It said it could borrow the money more cheaply than the trust could, saving it $1m in interest over five years.

But councillor Mike Finlayson said the loan was well outside the council's core business of protecting the environment, and economic development.

He said there were failing sewerage and water supply systems all over the north that would cost millions to replace and the council's cheap loan facility was only for $20m.

Mr Finlayson said the helicopter loan would use up half of that.

He said the rescue helicopter was essentially a medical service and the regional council already gave it more than $500,000 a year in rates.