The company that operates Hawke's Bay's rescue helicopter service has been ditched in favour of another.
As part of a nationwide restructure, a newly incorporated company called Central Air Ambulance Rescue Limited (CAARL) will oversee the contract for rescue helicopters for the entire Central region.
Ditched Hawke's Bay provider Skyline Aviation's founding director Mike Toogood has slammed the move, saying the new provider's helicopter is less robust in emergency situations.
About five Skyline staff would lose their jobs, Toogood said.
But Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust general manager Ian Wilmont said the contract had simply gone to the most competitive bid.
The changes will mean the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter will be painted a bright coloured yellow, rather than its current black.
It will continue to be based in Hawke's Bay.
Wilmont said the change had been driven by a national call for a rationalisation of contracts from the current situation of 11 individual contracts across 18 helicopter bases, to three contracts only across New Zealand – one for Auckland/Northland, one for Central Region, and one for South Island.
He understood Skyline Aviation made a "competitive bid" in collaboration with an overseas-owned helicopter operator, but CAARL was the better option.
It will be jointly owned by the five existing air ambulance helicopter trusts in the North Island; Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust (EHRT), Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust (HBRHT), Philips Search & Rescue Trust (PSRT), Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust (TRHT) and the Life Flight Trust (LFT) .
The focus would be on providing a great rescue helicopter service for the community, he said.
Toogood said he was "disappointed" at the move, and didn't think it would benefit the region.
Despite the loss of contract, Skyline Aviation would still be the provider of Hawke's Bay's fixed wing air ambulance services from its Napier-based facility, Toogood said.
Ministry of Health spokesman Andrew Inder said the new contract would cover helicopter pre-hospital retrieval and inter-hospital helicopter transfers for medical and injury services across the Central region.
He said it was an important step in a 10-year modernisation programme for New Zealand's air ambulance helicopter services.
"Trusts will phase in additional twin-engine helicopters over the next 12 months. This will give clinical staff more room to provide comprehensive care on board, ensuring patients needing urgent clinical attention can get that care while being transported to the most appropriate hospital for their needs."