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NSW floods: Private helicopter operators claim they ‘didn’t want to’ during flood crisis

Private helicopter operators have expressed displeasure at not being called on by emergency agencies to adequately assist in the NSW flood crisis, despite being ready and able to help when needed.

The ongoing flood crisis in northern NSW continues to be a fallout despite calls for community help, with offers for claims of military aid also being rejected.

Two helicopter operators told Daily Mail Australia they had written to the NSW government seeking answers as to why they were not optimally deployed during the flood emergency in northern NSW despite being paid to be on standby.

Sydney Helicopters crews are expected to be deployed earlier this month to Lismore and Ballina, where thousands of residents were evacuated and ferried to safety from rising floodwaters.

Instead, the NSW State Air Desk sent them to the other end of the state at Cooma, where potential flooding was forecast.

But the crisis never arose and the crew spent a day and a half ‘sitting around and watching TV’ at an emergency response centre, before their services were no longer needed and returned to Sydney.

Sydney Helicopters said on Facebook on March 2 that crews were stationed in parts of the state and assisting SES.

As floods devastated the city of Lismore in northern NSW (pictured), a Sydney helicopter crew was dispatched to the other end of the state

As floods devastated the city of Lismore in northern NSW (pictured), a Sydney helicopter crew was dispatched to the other end of the state

The ‘ridiculous’ situation left the owner and chief pilot Mark Harold a waste of resources.

“I was bewildered when we could have used a better one in the north, where people were dying,” he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘The government had already paid for our helicopter to be available.’

‘We have crew and aircraft capable of getting people to safety, dropping supplies and lifting equipment.

‘Instead we are being used less and less by enlisted agencies to serve the state.’

Last week, Sydney Helicopters shared photos on Facebook of workers shutting down supplies to residents stranded in floodwaters in the Hawkesbury area, northwest of Sydney.

Mr Harold has since disclosed that the drop-off was paid for by residents themselves after emergency agencies no longer needed their services.

“We were calling people in dire need of help when we weren’t doing anything,” he said.

Mr Harold added another resident, who was taken to Hornsby Hospital after complaining of chest pain, later paid Sydney helicopters to take him home when he was discharged as there was no other option. .

He will request Premier Dominic Perrot on Monday for an in-depth investigation into why resources approached by the government were not used in the areas where they were needed most.

Sydney Helicopter owner and chief pilot Mark Harold has condemned the waste of resources by emergency agencies during the flood crisis.

Sydney Helicopter owner and chief pilot Mark Harold has condemned the waste of resources by emergency agencies during the flood crisis.

Sydney Helicopters spent the past week dropping supplies (pictured) to stranded residents in the Hawkesbury area after emergency agencies told they were not needed

Sydney Helicopters spent the past week dropping supplies (pictured) to stranded residents in the Hawkesbury area after emergency agencies told they were not needed

Mr Harold said: “I am disappointed and upset that flood-affected communities in NSW have been let down by the agencies they serve.”

‘Emergency services need to look into why they are not choosing experienced operators who are already being paid by the government.’

The State Air Desk is operated by the NSW Rural Fire Service which says SES was the lead agency during the flood disaster.

Another Sydney-based operator has also sought answers from several state lawmakers, the premier and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

Helitrek owner Trevor Breed told Daily Mail Australia he received a call on 27 February from an emergency services worker based in Lismore, informing him of a serious shortage of helicopters and experienced rescuers.

He contacted the NSW State Air Desk the next day and offered assistance as the flood crisis deepened in the area.

“I was told that they do not need any help at this stage, but may need drops of fodder for the animals in a few days,” he recalled.

Mr. Breed decided to send two helicopters to the northern rivers at his company’s expense.

Bankstown-based operator Helitrek (pictured) sent two helicopters to northern NSW during the NSW flood crisis.  One was deployed to work 21 hours a week, while the other sat in Coffs Harbor

Bankstown-based operator Helitrek (pictured) sent two helicopters to northern NSW during the NSW flood crisis. One was deployed to work 21 hours a week, while the other sat in Coffs Harbor

21 hours of work a week was allotted by the State Air Desk, which handled passenger transfers of RFS staff to and from Lismore and other locations. It was also tasked with delivering the generator to a transmission tower.

The second aircraft was parked ‘without blades’ for six days at Coffs Harbor.

“After the first helicopter detached, we could see that no work was being allocated to us and both planes returned to Bankstown,” Breed said.

‘It was very disappointing. A lot of money was spent in sending those planes up, which made our pockets loose.

He also shared the letter sent to Mr Joyce, the NSW Premier and state MP.

The question needs to be asked, what does it cost per hour to operate an RFS helicopter as compared to commercial operators? And does the RFS invoice this cost to the SES budget?’ She wrote.

‘The question that needs to be asked is why are internationally owned aircraft being hired when local Australian helicopter companies are on the ground? Money is going abroad!’

Ross Meadows led a crowdfunding campaign to privately source helicopters to release supplies to flood victims in northern NSW.

His team’s helicopters arrived to ‘destroy’ the city of Koraki.

‘We were there before and there alone. I would say almost every single person we went to didn’t get any food and didn’t have much left,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Without a doubt there could have been five more planes in the air.’

Another helicopter operator said residents of the nearby town of Koraki (pictured) also needed help.

Another helicopter operator said residents of the nearby town of Koraki (pictured) also needed help.

SES insists that private operators are being used as part of the ongoing flood crisis across the state, along with government aircraft from the NSW RFS, NSW Police Force, NSW Ambulance and the Australian Defense Force.

“NSW SES works closely with our partner agency NSW RFS to ensure that air assets are already in place and deployed to respond to requests for assistance,” a spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.

‘A number of air assets were deployed as part of the operation, although their initial efforts were hampered by inclement weather conditions and a lack of communications in the area.

Daily Mail Australia has also contacted the NSW RFS for comment.

Scott Morrison claimed he took too long to deploy the military to help with the floods in two states – even though two offers of military help were rejected.

The prime minister was widely criticized for taking 10 days to declare a national emergency for the devastating floods that killed 22 people, and residents of Lismore and Mullumbimbi in northern NSW, who were rising on their own. was battling the tide.

Some residents were forced to sit on their roofs until they were rescued, while others had to rely on friends, family and neighbors to help them move to dry land.

In Queensland, Ipswich residents have also been left to clear their third major flood in 11 years.

Mr Morrison said it could take a long time to deploy the army to different parts of the country.

Hours after the interview it was revealed that the NSW SES had twice rejected the support given by the Australian Defense Force on 25 February, before the waters began to rise.

Mr Morrison told Weekend Today The idea that his cabinet was too slow to respond to emergencies was nothing more than a ‘labor legend’.

‘There is a chorus of commentary that wants to support this. It is often the same melody that did not like how the last election was,’ he said.

‘I understand the frustration because no response will ever be able to meet the extreme need, as in a disaster like the one I have seen in Lismore.’

He Explained That the Good Samaritans Were Necessary Natural disasters because ‘the community is always the first to be there’.

‘We need people to go and rescue their neighbours. We need community response,’ he said.

‘To deploy nationally deployed forces across the country and mobilize them with equipment and heavy equipment and supplies and provision – that, you can’t turn it off and on.

‘You’re never going to have ADF bases sitting around the corner in every single city.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) defends the government's response to deadly floods in NSW and Queensland

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) defends the government’s response to deadly floods in NSW and Queensland

The PM was asked whether the government lacks foresight about natural calamities, with reference to the thousands of homes that were lost in the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

Mr Morrison then pointed out that Australia was quick to move on to the jobkeeper, when thousands of citizens lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic, and closed borders with China in an effort to keep the virus out.

He declared an emergency in response to the floods last Saturday – meaning relief money and other government aid could reach flood-affected areas directly.

Despite Mr. Morrison’s defense, daily Telegraph Reported on Sunday that the ADF contacted NSW SES Headquarters at 2 pm on 25 February to ask if assistance was needed.

But the defense representative was told that help would not be needed.

NSW SES Commissioner Carlin York defended the decision to decline offers of help twice, just three days before the state’s flood crisis struck.

Homes were destroyed in Lismore (pictured) and ADF troops were deployed to help clean up last week

Homes were destroyed in Lismore (pictured) and ADF troops were deployed to help clean up last week

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