Rotorua’s rescue helicopter will return if National is elected to form the next Government.
Health spokesman Shane Reti made the promise during a visit to Rotorua’s Volcanic Air hanger with Rotorua MP Todd McClay and Rotorua Rescue Helicopter Trust chair Mark Mortimer on Monday.
“A National Government will re-establish a rescue helicopter in Rotorua,” he says.
National would provide $1.6 million in annual funding from the health budget to help fund the service, which was axed in 2018 as part of a nationwide review.
McClay says the former rescue helicopter “should never have been sold”.
“This is an extremely busy area and a cost can’t be put on saving lives,” he says.
“Since it was sold demand for the service has continued to be high. It is the only rescue chopper in the country that was cancelled.”
McClay says he was aware of incidents when a rescue helicopter was too far away, meaning ground support had to be used, and instances where a helicopter had to fly from Auckland, Hamilton or Taranaki.
“This just doesn’t make sense.”
He says to ensure a new service’s long term sustainability it would be operated locally by the Rotorua Rescue Helicopter Trust.
“The people of Rotorua will own this rescue and emergency helicopter to ensure it cannot be sold off again. We need to bring back this vital emergency service for Rotorua.”
Trust chair Mark Mortimer says Rotorua’s rescue helicopter was “a resource that never should have gone”.
He says Rotorua was the sole location to lose the service, and that relying on cover from locations like Hamilton and Taupō placed additional strain on their helicopters.
Mortimer also cited the 2018 Chinese tour bus crash, saying that incident saw five helicopters used.