A record number of flights by the Northland Electricity helicopters saw crews called to an average of three rescues a day during the peak summer season.

Crews aboard the two Northland Electricity rescue helicopters responded to 97 calls in December and 107 rescue flights in January alone. That was on average more than three flights a day, compared with 84 the previous January and an increase of 27 per cent.

Already this year there have been six winch rescues, with the latest involving a woman who suffered a heart attack on a cruise ship off North Cape at the weekend.

Chief pilot Peter Turnbull said the increased numbers of people drawn to Northland due to the beautiful beaches meant more rescues of those engaging in coastal activities.


"As the temperatures swell in December and January, so do the number of people visiting Northland. Holidaymakers and locals flock to our beaches and some get adventurous and head out to the more remote areas of the region," Mr Turnbull said.

In the last week of January alone the team transported 29 patients, a mix of accident and emergency, from small rural communities of Northland to both Whangarei and Auckland hospitals. Mr Turnbull said the high levels of humidity throughout December and January resulted in visibility restrictions and made for some challenging flying conditions for the NEST pilots. The humidity created plenty of cloud which was not normal for Northland in January.

"The team had to use the full capability of the aircraft and other resources during a large number of flights. Our GPS routes, which detail specific altitudes and headings to be flown in certain areas of Northland, came in very useful this summer and allowed us to get on with our rescues despite the weather conditions. It justifies the investment in all weather flying capabilities."

The crews found themselves using the technology, including night vision goggles, for 33 rescues done in the early hours of the morning during January.

On Saturday the crew were alerted to a woman on a cruise ship who had suffered a heart attack. At that stage the ship was too far off North Cape and a plan was made to rendezvous when it was closer on Sunday morning.

Mr Turnbull said a paramedic was lowered onto the deck of the Diamond Princess as it neared the Three Kings Islands - about 55 kilometres northwest of Cape Reinga - and a woman was winched on a stretcher into the helicopter and flown directly to Auckland hospital.

Other rescues included a teenage boy winched off rocks after he fell while climbing the Taheke Falls northeast of Whangarei, on January 25. On Sunday the crews were also called to Maungaturoto after a man in his 40s was struck by a cow and injured.