It was a case of returning a favour or two, big-time, as the 25th anniversary Hastings Karamu Rotary Club charity cocktail evening and auction contributed another $75,000 to the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter in Hastings last night.

It was always going to be a success - with ticket sales of 600 meaning it had to be moved to the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds Events Centre, outgrowing the Lindisfarne College auditorium, where it had been held recent years.

Taking pride of place in the auction was Omakere forester Mark Warren, who calmly borrowed a Hawke's Bay Today reporter's pen as auctioneer Simon Tremain opened bidding on the last of 14 lots. This included a cased ice axe, replica of that used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in their 1953 ascent of Mt Everest, and signed-off by the New Zealand hero who died eight years ago.

Mr Warren wrote on his hand "8.5" and calmly went about bidding, ultimately claiming it for $8500 and saying: "That was my limit."


He said he'd had to call-on the services for rescues, and had been to about 20 of the auctions.

"It's largely supported by city people, but it (the helicopter) is mostly used by country people," he explained.

But he reckoned he also bought it on behalf of a late aunt who "always encouraged me to grab these things."

Another to snatch an opportunity was 26-year-old Brad Watkins, whose just finished a contract tuna-spotting as a helicopter pilot in the Pacific. His brother, Mark, was rescued by the helicopter from a hunting accident last year, so it was an extra incentive to indulge his musical wont in making a successful bid of $3250 for a replica Jimi Hendrix Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Mark, third brother Jono, and their mother were all at the auction, the brothers on a night off from Mark's business Advance Plumbing and Jono's Ontrak Earthworx.

"Put that in," he reckoned. "They can help pay for the guitar."

Several lots went for over $5000, among them a lot of 25 magnums of wine, while a special winner was relatively-recent Hawke's Bay arrival Olivia Pierre, who was named Best Dressed Lady in Silver, commemorating the anniversary of the event.

The event became a significant contributor to the rescue service, which has more than 300 missions a year, one of them meeting a budget of over $2.2 million.

Helicopter rescue in Hawke's Bay dates back to the 1960s when agricultural flyers would be called-in to help in emergencies, with patient stretchers mounted outside the cockpits and on the skids of the machines.

The Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust was established in 1984, and a helicopter pad was put in place at the hospital the following year, but it was not until 1991 that moves were made for the trust to operate its own helicopter, amid the first of the Karamu Rotary charity auctions. The major sponsor changed its name to Lowe Corporation in 1997.