Two new air ambulance helicopters are being launched in the South Island today.
It's the first time the state-of-the-art aircraft have been used in New Zealand for emergency medicine purposes.
New Zealand's Health Minister Hon Dr David Clark unveiled the new Airbus H145 twin-engine helicopters in Christchurch this afternoon.
The choppers, worth $15 million each, were delivered from Airbus in Germany and will start service tomorrow, with one based in Christchurch and the other in Dunedin.
The new South Island air ambulance services come after Clark last year announced an agreement with Helicopter Emergency Medical Services New Zealand Limited (HEMS) to provide air ambulance services across the whole of the South Island.
HEMS is a joint venture between two well-established existing providers, GCH Aviation with a new facility at Christchurch Airport, and Helicopters Otago based in Dunedin.
It is supported by existing charitable trusts and funds raised by communities throughout the south.
HEMS chief executive Ken Franklin says the helicopters set a new benchmark for New Zealand's air ambulance services.
"These specially equipped aircraft will give clinical staff more room to provide vital patient care with the latest life-saving equipment," he said.
"New technology on these aircraft combined with exclusive-use air routes will also enable missions to be flown safely in conditions that previously restricted the use of helicopters."
While the helicopters will operate from Christchurch and Dunedin, the service will be supported with BK 117 aircraft and dedicated crew in bases at Nelson, Greymouth and Queenstown, with an at-call service available from Te Anau.
Ministry of Health's Andrew Inder says the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO), on behalf of the Ministry of Health and ACC, aims to build a national integrated network of air ambulance services with dedicated crews available round the clock in fit-for-purpose helicopters.
"The aspiration is to bring an equity of access to emergency ambulance services for all communities, and to improve outcomes for patients. HEMS' commissioning of these aircraft is a significant step toward that goal," Inder said.
• The Airbus H145 aircraft's digital technology reduces weight and vastly improves flight capability in adverse conditions
• Multiple warning and avoidance systems
• Self-correcting stabilisation
• Auto-pilot including stabilised auto-hover
• The latest clinical life-support systems