The West

Govt backtracks on sea rescuer insurance
Fremantle Sea Rescue comes to the aid of yacht in rough weather. Picture: Rod Taylor/The West Australian.

Emergency Services Minister Troy Buswell has guaranteed that the Government will continue to provide insurance to metropolitan volunteer sea rescue groups.

The groups - Fremantle, Whitfords and Cockburn - were told by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority late yesterday that a review had revealed that they were uninsured because of a technicality.

Under a memorandum of understanding FESA must provide insurance to the groups.

But is unable to do so at the moment because the three groups, unlike the 36 other volunteer sea rescue groups around the State, have elected to operate autonomously from FESA.

Mr Buswell said FESA would continue to honour its obligations under the MOU.

"The legal advice is the current method for insurance is not appropriate therefore we have to find a new method," he said.

"FESA have committed to providing insurance and they will have to do that, so there's a little bit of work for us to do in and around how we insure those groups. We will do that."

Mr Buswell said the Government had no intention of forcing the groups to come under the FESA umbrella.

The Government's insurance arm Riskcover has paid out claims by the group in past years, including for equipment replacement.

Despite the yesterday's revelation that there had been no legal requirement to grant the insurance payouts, the groups would not be required to pay any money back, Mr Buswell said.

But Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue commander Mark Carruthers said FESA was still requesting the groups give up their autonomy and until that was withdrawn, the impasse would not be resolved.

He said FESA had threatened to halve the three groups' combined funding to $200,000 a year as a way of forcing them under the FESA umbrella, but both Mr Buswell and Premier Colin Barnett had assured them that wouldn't happen.

"But it's just another way of them trying to force us to come under the FESA operating protocol, which we will not agree to," Mr Carruthers said.

The groups would not meet FESA representatives until it worked out a solution which didn't involve giving up their autonomy, he said.

The West Australian

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