Tuesday, 26 January 2021


Busy workload for Whitianga-based rescue helicopter

Soon after an Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter (ARHT) arrived at Crosby Field, the rescue helicopter base in Whitianga, for a five-week period on Monday last week, the crew were tasked on their first mission. That was followed by seven more missions before “Auld Lang Syne” could be heard across the Coromandel Peninsula as people welcomed in the New Year.

“The workload of the rescue helicopter that’s at the moment based in Whitianga is evidence that we need a rescue helicopter operating from the Peninsula over long weekends and the busy holiday periods,” says Merv George, chairman of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust (the owner of Crosby Field). “Traffic around the Coromandel bordered on chaotic over the New Year’s period. Some of patients the helicopter attended to in the few days before New Year, including motor vehicle accident victims at Kennedy Bay and Wharekaho, were seriously injured. If it wasn’t for the helicopter, it may have taken a long time for them to get to a hospital.”

Craig Gibbons, CEO of Northern Rescue Helicopters Limited (a joint venture between the ARHT and the Northland Emergency Services Trust) says he’s pleased that they are able to roster three helicopters, two in Auckland and one on the Coromandel, on during the current summer holiday season. “It’s something we haven’t delivered in the past,” he said. “While the people on the Coromandel are supported by helicopter aeromedical services from Ardmore, Tauranga and the Waikato, the availability of a dedicated helicopter in Whitianga provides two clear benefits.

“The first is additional capacity. With a massive increase in the Coromandel summer population, the Whitianga-based helicopter is smoothing our workload during New Zealand’s busiest period for helicopter aeromedical services each year.

“The second benefit is speed of response. The close location, coupled with the additional capacity, is already seeing ill and injured people in the region receive medical critical care quickly.”

According to James Tayler, ARHT deputy flight operations manager and pilot, the ARHT crews have been looking forward to being based back at Crosby Field. “Our first crew have received the normal warm welcome form the Coromandel community,” he says. “Our crews were all happy to work the extra shifts required to provide an extra helicopter to cover the Peninsula during this hectic time of year.

“Although a helicopter is only planned to be based in Whitianga during what is anticipated to be the period of highest demand, it will give us a chance to assess the level of work to assist with planning into the future. We are fortunate and grateful that Crosby Field is a superb facility and to have the enthusiastic support of the local community.

“Happy New Year from all the guys and girls of the ARHT.”

The Informer will be publishing in every issue this month a summary of missions flown by the ARHT on the Coromandel, including the rescue helicopter based in Whitianga, during the previous week.

Pictured: The first Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust crew based in Whitianga for the summer holidays inside the Crosby Field hangar on Wednesday last week. From the left - Ati Wynyard (crewman), Mike McAulay (paramedic), Josh Sanders (paramedic) and Paul Robinson (pilot).


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.