A network of all-weather, rescue helicopter landing pads across Northland is being backed by local communities
Community funded all-weather landing pads for the Northland Rescue Helicopter have been built in Whangarei Heads, Ruawai and Kerikeri, and other communities and towns are planning on doing the same across the region.
Northland Rescue Helicopter chief pilot and CEO Peter Turnbull said it was great to have the support of the community, especially with something that is critical to the safe and efficient running of the service.
"More designated landing areas will increase our capability and help us reach people more quickly and ensure no time is wasted in an emergency. It also means in areas like Kaiwaka that we won't have to land in the pub carpark," Mr Turnbull said.
A new concrete helipad is in progress in Mangonui/Doubtless Bay, backed by donations from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. The church was also instrumental in the building of the Kerikeri helipad in 2010.
Organiser Ben Stuart said it was a way of giving back to the community and thanking the rescue helicopter service for helping to save lives, which included several people from the church congregation.
"The more central the landing spot, the higher the chance of saving lives," he said.
"Better accessibility means they can get people to main hospitals faster and increase chances of survival, especially in cases of a stroke or heart attack."
The helipad in Mangonui, which is being built on land owned by the Far North District Council, will be used all year around but will be especially helpful during peak summer holiday season.
There are also helipads planned for Maungaturoto and Kaiwaka.
The team at Northland Rescue Helicopter had identified other areas in the region which would benefit from all-weather landing pads, including Kaihu, Kohukohu in the Hokianga, and remote Te Hapua on the Parengarenga Harbour at the top of the North Island.
Alongside the community pads, the Northland DHB has funded hospital landing areas in Whangarei, Dargaville, Rawene, Kaitaia, Kaeo and the Bay of Islands.
This year has been the busiest year on record for the Northland Rescue Helicopter, responding to 705 requests and on track to be well over last year's 863 flights.