The 2017 Northland Rescue Helicopter fundraising appeal is underway – with the aim of beating last year’s superb total of $200,000 in public donations.

With the needs of the charitable helicopter service constantly in the limelight - and the extraordinarily busy summer period looming - the timing of the appeal is critical.

Paul Ahlers, Chairman of the Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST), says funds raised contribute to general operating costs of the much-needed life-saving service.

“Donations help cover the costs of fuel, maintenance, insurance and more. The fact is we need these donations and the Trust continues to be humbled by the support of the Northland community in getting behind their rescue service. The service would not exist without their ongoing support,” says Mr Ahlers.

Northland’s world-class air ambulance service is considered one of the most cost-effective operations of its kind in New Zealand. By necessity, it operates on an extremely tight budget and despite contending with an annual funding shortfall close to $1.5 million, continues to help people in their time of need – 24/7.

Since 1988, close to 20,000 people have been transported by an array of helicopters in the service’s ever-evolving fleet which now comprises three Sikorsky S76s which fly, on average, close to three times a day, says Mr Ahlers.

“Our team continues to be busier than ever with expected annual hours flown likely to hit a record high of more than 1200 hours this year, covering emergency medical missions from Kaitaia to Auckland and beyond.

‘We are looking to purchase new aircraft to replace our older helicopters and the first of the new machines should be in service sometime in 2018. A public fundraising campaign will be undertaken shortly to cover the cost of the upgrade.

Mr Ahlers says the Government may also tender the emergency air ambulance service early in 2018, and NEST will be submitting a tender.

“We are confident the Northland Rescue Helicopter Service will continue to be at the forefront of setting air ambulance standards across the country. That is due to the commitment and calibre of our staff, associated emergency service personnel we work with daily, volunteers throughout our community and the people of Northland and beyond who continue to support us. We are really grateful for that.

The annual fundraising campaign is backed by principal sponsors Northpower and Top Energy, who match public donations up to $150,000 – and have been doing so since the first campaign back in 1988. The consumer-owned electricity lines companies have contributed millions of dollars towards helping save lives.

This year the campaign focuses on people of all walks of life, from tourists and sports people, to farmers, forestry workers, water sport enthusiasts and those people who live in the rugged rural spaces of Northland. Those stories will be show-cased during the fundraising campaign at:
www.facebook.com/northland.rescuehelicopter.com