Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter planning to return

12 Oct 2021

A statement by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

Residents and holidaymakers enjoying all that the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula has to offer over the summer holidays, can rest easier knowing the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) is, once again, planning for a helicopter and crew to be based in Whitianga.

Last summer - thanks to overwhelming community support, including that of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust - the ARHT was able to operate a third helicopter from the purpose-built Whitianga rescue helicopter hangar and accommodation facilities. Apart from the White Island mission, it was the first time in the service’s 50-year history that all three of its helicopters were operational at the same time. 

Under national patient guidelines set by the government's National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO) in 2019, the ARHT is required to have two helicopters and crews available at its Ardmore base during daylight hours, every day of the year. 

With NASO’s blessing, Northland Rescue Helicopter (NRHL) CEO, Craig Gibbons, says the ARHT team were delighted to be welcomed back last year having worked through some logistical issues that left the Whitianga base empty the summer prior. “We recognise how important [a rescue helicopter service] is to a community who have been so generous with their donations every year,” he says. “The movement of approximately 100,000 people to the Coromandel Peninsula during the summer period is significant and needs to be matched with the same level of pre-hospital and retrieval medical care. We are working hard to ensure we have the resources and capacity to meet the demand for a third helicopter and crew in Whitianga and hope to extend our days of deployment [over the upcoming summer season]. Once again, we appeal to our Auckland and Coromandel communities to help us achieve this.” 

Last year was a record year for ARHT with 1,187 missions undertaken, including 192 to the Coromandel Peninsula. Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, 2021 is shaping up to be the Trust’s busiest yet with 953 missions up to the end of September, including 148 missions to the Coromandel. 

Air ambulance services in Auckland and Northland are provided by Northern Rescue Helicopter Limited, of which the ARHT is a 50 percent shareholder. Northern Rescue Helicopter Limited is also providing rescue helicopter services to the Coromandel Peninsula. The Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust’s relationship with the ARHT spans many years and led to the development of the rescue helicopter base in Whitianga.

To make a donation to the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust, in support of an ARHT helicopter based in Whitianga this summer, visit coromandelrescue.org.nz.

Merv George (pictured on the right), chair of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust, is delighted that the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) is planning to have a rescue helicopter based in Whitianga over the upcoming summer season. “A lot of work is going into ensuring the ARHT will be able to base a rescue helicopter in Whitianga over all the busy holiday periods on the Coromandel,” he says. “Among the efforts to date were a petition that attracted more than 46,000 signatures and several trips to Wellington and Ardmore. We have always had a very good relationship with the ARHT and the announcement that they are planning to return to Whitianga this summer is great news. Things are certainly looking very positive.”

With Merv on the photo are Walter Russell (on the left), founding chair of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust, and Stephan Bosman, owner of The Informer and organiser of the 46,000-signature petition.