Major helicopter funders give more

By Carly Gibbs

Tauranga's rescue helicopter needs community support to stay in the air - and has just signed a three-year deal with two major sponsors. Carly Gibbs reports

It takes a lot of money to get the TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter up in the air and propellers wouldn't spin if it wasn't for two major sponsors.

Between them TrustPower and Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) have contributed $2.16million to the rescue helicopter since 2003, and they have just announced a further $850,000 in funding for a fourth three-year term.

The two organisations provide 25 per cent of the annual costs of operating the Tauranga-based rescue helicopter.

Community relations manager for TrustPower, Graeme Purches, said the latest combined donation had increased slightly to keep up with the rising cost reflected in the Consumer Price Index.

Worth more than $2million, the TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter carries up to $600,000 worth of specialised equipment, does 200km/h and uses 190 litres of petrol in an hour.

The service, which covers the Bay of Plenty and sometimes beyond, has an annual operational budget of more than $1million.

"They (rescue helicopters and crew) are vital for communities when you hear some of the stories of those who owe their lives to them. They've got them to hospital quickly. They are essential," Mr Purches said. The rescue chopper is required to be off the ground within 10 minutes of a daytime call and 20 minutes of a nighttime call.

TECT chairman Michael Cooney said the financial amount his organisation contributed to the helicopter was minimal when you questioned: "What is a life worth?". He said hundreds of letters and feedback TECT had received from grateful patients since supporting the service nine years ago was a "strong endorsement" for why it continued to be a champion for the helicopter.

TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter spokeswoman Kylie Harcourt said, "TrustPower and TECT are amazing to work with. Community support keeps the Tauranga rescue helicopter saving lives."

Big charity auction

The TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter is this year's benefactor in the Bay of Plenty Times Big Charity Auction. The promotion will raise thousands of dollars for the rescue helicopter, and readers will win luxury prizes worth $35,000, including including an 18-carat white diamond ring, a Suzuki scooter and a family trip to Rarotonga.

Each prize will be won by the highest bidder of Big Charity Auction dollars, which can be collected daily in the Monday to Friday editions of the  Bay of Plenty Times  for the June 29 event at Classic Flyers.

Proceeds from extra newspaper sales during the promotion will go to the rescue helicopter.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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