A Mackay RACQ CQ Rescue swimmer and VMR volunteer Dennis Pott take part in a training mission.
A Mackay RACQ CQ Rescue swimmer and VMR volunteer Dennis Pott take part in a training mission.

Struggling VMR’s future still in uncharted territory

VOLUNTEER Marine Rescue crews are still in the dark about the future of their organisation.

It comes as Queensland recorded an alarming increase in recreational boating deaths in 2019, sparking calls for an increased focus on water safety.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford was unable to give a time frame on when a plan of action would be put forward during a visit to Mackay this week.

VMR Mackay skipper Charles Linsley said the local service could be financially unviable in three years' time, as volunteers anxiously await a State Government review on the issue.

VMR Mackay skipper Charles Linsley said the local service could be financially unviable in three years' time

Mr Linsley was involved in the Blue Water Review working group, which explored the viability and financial situation of Queensland marine rescue operations.

The review was completed in November and had been passed onto the State Government for its consideration in January.

Mr Crawford had previously said a decision on VMR's future had been delayed because of coronavirus.

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"There are a range of options that are currently with government, which I will be taking to cabinet," he said on Wednesday.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford. Picture: Melanie Whiting
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"So I can't comment on what they will be but what I can say is there are a range of options sitting with government at the moment."

Mr Crawford was unable to give a time frame on when a plan of action would be decided, saying "it's in the system at the moment".

Mr Linsley said he was looking forward to an outcome soon.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Lachlan Millar said the volunteers deserved "rock solid assurances and answers" on the essential service they provided.

"These men and women are the lifeblood of many communities and we can't afford to lose any more local branches," he said.

Eighteen people died in Queensland waters last year in reported marine incidents.

Of the 14 who drowned or went missing, only one was known to be wearing a lifejacket.

Maritime Safety Queensland received 332 marine incident reports in 2019.

Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.
Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay skipper Charles Linsley.

The most commonly reported incidents were collisions between ships, collisions with objects, groundings and capsizes.

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Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the findings of the 2019 Marine Incident Report released yesterday marked a grim milestone for the state.

"Last year was the worst in Queensland for decades, in terms of the number of lives lost on the water," Mr Bailey said.

He said the report showed boat users needed to pay more attention to safety messages and commit to routine use of life jackets.