Paying To Be Rescued In New Zealand

, posted: 12-Jan-2010 07:39

I noted this article on stuff this morning, in short people in the Queentown Lakes area are being billed thousands of dollars by the harbour master if they need to be rescued, but read the article for the full...
To me, the thought that somebody should be asked to pay for a rescue, is somewhat worry some. The reason is that it encourages people to try and AVOID rescue even when it's necessary.
I'm sure there have been cases (although I can cite none) where tourists have actually hidden from rescuers because they fear being hit with a massive bill like they would in their home country, which ends up taking more time, money and potentially placing more people in danger.
Even if we say "ok, these kayakers were a bit stupid", we are clearly on a slippery slope here as evidenced by the case at the bottom of the article.

"That guy had been fishing upstream and got into some quicksand – the boat took off before he could get out," Mr Black said.
That boat owner was invoiced for about $1600.
That sounds like the guy had a total accident, and he was made to pay for his rescue.  Surely ACC should be picking up the tab!  For both of these instances.  ACC IS NO FAULT.
This is not the New Zealand I grew up in, where if you get yourself in some strife you know you can shout for help without fear of being encumbered with debt, because, well, that's just what Kiwis do, help each other out!
To me it sounds like from the article that the harbour master down there is simply circumventing the proper channels (heh heh) and instead of calling upon the police as you'd expect would be the ones to perform such an operation, is going out, doing the rescue/search on his own volition, and kindly sending a bill to the hapless rescuee at the end of the day.
Will we son be presented a pricelist by our rescuers "Rescue: $5,000.  Supplies drop: $4,000.  Medical assistane: $3,000 ....", perhaps helicopters will need to be fitted with EFTPOS.

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Comment by rscole86, on 12-Jan-2010 08:50

I guess it is a matter of perspective. I personally do not have a problem with it, alsong as there are certain factors involved. Like they did not take proper precautions, despite being experienced? Did not follow advice, did not tell people where they were going, did not take locator beacons etc etc.

Unfortnately, someone has to pay. Whether it is the council, lottery fund, community groups or even you paying $2 for a sausage in the weekend, most of these operations are not fully funded. If I needed rescued, I would do what I could to make sure I paid, or helped in other ways, to cover my expense.

In the past we have given our local Fire service 'donations' for helping rescue our cat (neighbours decided to call them rather than get a ladder), and another time when they investigated a fire which we had a permit for.

In the end someone has to pay, and if it can be prooved that someone did not take all necessary precautions, then bill them.

Comment by sbiddle, on 12-Jan-2010 10:11

ACC provides no fault injury cover.

Why on earth should ACC pay any costs when no injury was sustained in either case?

It's also worth noting that I would suspect in both cases Police would have been involved. They are the lead agency in New Zealand for all class I and class II SAR operations.

It would be highly unlikely that a harbourmaster would not notify Police immediately in either of those situations. Once that has been done Police become the lead agency, the only exception being for class III searches where RCC take over this role and coordinate the search.

Author's note by sleemanj, on 12-Jan-2010 10:30

Hmm fair comment I guess, but ACC also needs to look to injury prevention if nothing else than to save everybody money, it would seem a reasonable conclusion that a quick $4000 heli lift would be a more economic cost to ACC than covering a lifetime of injury if the guys had tried to get themselves out, and it would seem fairly likely that serious injury would have resulted if they were left to their own devices.

As to the police issue.  I would have thought that is how it should work, but the article certainly doesn't sound like it is the case, does it?  Certainly sounds to me like the harbour master was judge jury and executioner so to speak.  If the police were involved, then surely instead of a bill, there'd be a charge for negligance?

Comment by Brett, on 16-Jan-2010 07:24

If these guys got charged, then as a tax-payer, I should not fund the life-time care of a paraplegic who snaps his neck in a rugby scrum(the no.1 reason in NZ as research has shown). My point is we live in a society where we are free to do crazy things. That is good. As for the harbormaster, obviously he has been looking at his funding and budgets and was in a "low-place". Its time for him to move on.

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