October 28th 2010 at 2:23pm, By Dave Guerin
I saw an interesting presentation recently by David Shearer, the GM of the Search and Rescue Institute of NZ (SARINZ), which covered the training of volunteers in, well, search and rescue. So I was interested to see the following note in the October LandSAR newsletter – LandSAR is one of SARINZ’s partners.
LandSAR received a letter from Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TPP) last month indicating that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) funding that used to cover courses overseen by SARINZ will no longer cover the full cost of services and a $10 per credit fee will be charged to LandSAR in the New Year. This is not $10 per course but is based on the total credits value given to each course which could range from 10 or more per person per year. Based roughly on the course credits received from the 96 SARINZ Courses held over the last two years, this could cost LandSAR up to $250,000 or more in the next calendar year.
… The LandSAR Board reviewed the overall issue stated and we stress that this is not solely a TPP concern. They are simply making it clear that our industry or sector has to pay its way and they can see no other solution that imposing such a fee.
LandSAR has to now look at all options going forward…. Our industry is not commercial, it is not for profit and as such should be funded as a core function of Central Government. …LandSAR fundamentally believes that volunteers should not have to pay for the training required to remain capable of delivering an emergency service to the communities of NZ. We believe volunteers, without hesitation, give enough of their time, professional skills and personal equipment; to expect them to pay for training for that service would become a bridge to far on the overall goodwill standings.
Over the next few months we will be talking to our members and the sector – as we believe this will eventually affect all of the emergency sector (Civil Defence, CoastGuard, Rural Fire, Surf Life Saving, etc) and our key partners (NZ Police, RCCNZ and NZSAR)…
Now, at one level, we have a sector that was getting funding, is now expected to pay, is subsequently grumpy, and is starting to lobby. And I’m sure Tai Poutini will be lobbying too, given they have a few programmes that are inventive and can fall foul of more conventional TEC policies. Putting that to one side, though, the training of volunteers that carry out quasi-official functions is somewhat of an anomaly, especially when the training is probably due, in part, to government regulations.
Search and rescue work is pretty hard to fault – whether the person who is lost is experienced or an idiot who didn’t look at a weather forecast, I’m enormously happy that people are willing to drop their normal lives to head out into the bush to find someone. Other than a few coordinators, they are essentially volunteers too. In that environment, I wonder how realistic it is to expect them to meet increasing training requirements out of their own pockets.
Now you might think that a lot of the skills would be useful recreationally, such as abseiling and so on, and therefore should be funded individually. I thought so too, but I’ve pasted below the search courses offered by SARINZ – they seem to be pretty specific! And if you click through to the details, they seem quite impressive too.
I’m not too sure what the solution is here, but volunteer payment for training seems likely to lead to a reduction in volunteers. Some other way probably needs to be found (and the $$ could be found in various ways, and not necessarily from the GST I paid today). LandSAR seems quite proactive overall, and is currently consulting on a training strategy, so I’m sure they’d come to the party on any strategic discussions.
By the way, I have no dog in this fight – just an interesting issue to think about.