The Herald editorial:
In terms of fundraising, few organisations are in such a favoured position as the Westpac rescue helicopter service. Such is the high profile and obvious value of its work that Aucklanders respond readily and generously whenever money is sought. This degree of public goodwill should never be taken for granted, however. There will always be the strong risk of a backlash when ratepayers learn they can expect a $500,000 legal bill to defend a court case brought by the helicopter service.
That situation has arisen because the Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust is challenging plans to cut its annual operating grant from ratepayers from $900,000 to $450,000. Both the Auckland Council and the council-funded Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board, which determines the grants allotted to 10 rescue, safety, arts and cultural groups, are standing firm. The helicopter service, they say, has been incredibly successful at fundraising and is in an exceptionally sound financial position. It is ready to stand more on its own two feet.
I don’t have a particular view on what the level of funding should be. But I do have a strong view that this is effectively a donation, and that the recipients of a donation should not go to court to try and force a higher level of donation.
The Trust provides a valued service and does much good. But this lawsuit risks a lot of goodwill.