Pride of NZ Awards: An amazing man on a mission

After 31 years in the job, Greg Brownson says it is emergencies involving children which affect him the most.

Greg Brownson

Greg Brownson has worked for Auckland's rescue helicopter services for 31 years, and says that one thing has revolutionised the way they operate.

"The biggest change would have to be the night vision goggles. They are a fantastic aid to being able to fly at night, as it is just so much safer."

He has worked as a crew member on more than 2000 missions for the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, based at Mechanics Bay, and many thousands more as ground crew, as both a volunteer then staff member.

The goggles became available just seven years ago, and cost $12,000 a pair.

"The whole aim is to be able to get there quickly and safely and get the patient back to hospital quickly and safely."

Mr Brownson, a former Vietnam veteran, owned a mechanics workshop in Herne Bay before going to work for the rescue helicopter service fulltime in 1991, where he is Helicopter Manager.

"My passion for helicopters was just so strong."

Greg was nominated in the Emergency Services section of the Pride of New Zealand Awards by John Hooper from the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

"His legacy is not just as this moustached legend crewman, but he has been instrumental in setting standards, forming protocols and bringing in new inno-vative ideas."

Mr Brownson is a world leader in helicopter winching protocols and organised a conference in New Zealand on the topic.

"One thing I know about Greg is he is extremely humble.

"He is never boastful, but in fact he has been involved in some off-shore winch jobs that have saved lives. He won't talk to you about that.

"He is unflappable, I have never once seen him worked up or lose control."

It is the missions involving injured children that stand out, Mr Brownson says. "It really hits home. The adults you can cope with but with the chil-dren ... we are all parents and family men."

Todd Hamilton

He's the kiwi man in Northland, and an expert on the national bird.

Todd Hamilton has been at the centre of Northland efforts to boost the kiwi population for the past 15 years.

During that time kiwi numbers on the Whangarei Heads have grown from just 80 in 2000 to more than 500 today.

He has led stoat trapping programmes and created awareness around dogs along with other members in the community group Backyard Kiwi.

"You kill stoats so the chicks survive, then you control your dogs, that is all you really have to do to give kiwi a helping hand in Northland.

He sets about 300 traps which catch "a couple of dozen" stoats per year, down from hundreds in the early days.

He also runs a transmitter programme to gather information on the birds.

Watch: Pride of NZ Awards: Todd Hamilton


"They are pretty clever, they are the slowest growing bird in the world yet they learn. Jeepers, the ones who learn to get away from me get pretty sly."

"People think they are dumb, but they are not, they are almost as smart as parrots."

He says PR to make people aware of the dangers dogs pose has been highly successful.

"God help those visitors who bring in a dog and let it roam around now, they get an earful. We very rarely get a kiwi killed by dogs now. "

He says he was at first "pretty embarrassed" about the nomination in the Environmental section of the Pride of New Zealand Awards. But now it has sunk in, he is chuffed.

"It is a community thing - I am just the man at the front of it."

He gets "a buzz" out of what he does. "Who wouldn't eh? I enjoy being outdoors and working and trapping and I feel like I am making a difference."

He says the kiwi is a "pretty impressive animal" and not many people are lucky enough to deal with them up close.

Voting is now open for the TSB Bank People's Choice Award. The Herald will profiling each of the 24 national finalists. Voting closes 11.59pm on September 7, with awards to take place on September 10. Decide who you think is the most deserving. You are only able to vote once, so choose wisely. You can register your vote here.

* For more awards information, visit:

- NZ Herald

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