When the former National Party president Michelle Boag left her passport at home before an international flight yesterday, she did the obvious thing - called the Westpac rescue helicopter to fetch it for her.

Ms Boag, who is chairwoman of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Foundation, made the 5.30am call on her way to Auckland Airport after she realised her passport was still at home on Waiheke Island.

The chopper, with the mandatory crew of three including a paramedic, flew from Mechanics Bay to Waiheke and then out to the helipad near the international terminal. It then returned to Mechanics Bay.

The public relations professional had stayed in Auckland on Thursday night so she could catch an early-morning flight to Australia.

Speaking from Sydney, she said she would have missed important meetings had she been delayed.

"I was in a hole and they managed to help me out and I was happy to pay the price for that," she said.

"That was my silly mistake and I won't do it again."

The total cost of the flight was $4000, and Ms Boag said last night that she had already paid it.

Ms Boag set up the foundation last year after husband Mervyn Bennett suffered a heart attack in 2004 and was flown from Waiheke to hospital.

The foundation aims to raise $7 million for the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, which needs to replace its ageing BK117 with a new Bell-412 that has room for four stretchers.

Trust chief executive Rea Wikaira, who also lives on the island, fetched the passport and agreed to fly it to the airport, after first checking that the helicopter was available.

"She works pretty hard for our trust and the foundation; she's always organising things," Mr Wikaira said.

Ms Boag was talking to potential donors in Australia, although he did not know who. "I wouldn't have a clue. People like [Sir] Michael Fay are over there. I don't know if she's seeing him or not but she's mixing with people who are potentials we can look at [for donations] for our replacement helicopter."

The high-profile businesswoman has been involved in a number of publicly embarrassing incidents. She arranged secret filming of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' evidence to the Winebox inquiry in 1996 in her role as communications director for Sir Michael's merchant bank, Fay Richwhite.

But Ms Boag's most controversial role was as National Party President in the run-up to the 2002 general election where she vowed to clean out MPs she regarded as "deadwood".

A rescue helicopter pilot, who did not want to be named, said he had never been asked to do a similar errand but as long as the chopper could be diverted for emergency work and the bill was paid by Ms Boag, there was probably no harm done.

"You could probably argue they could respond just as quickly from wherever they were in the air."

Margaret Mills, an elderly Waiheke resident and neighbour of the island's only airstrip, was unimpressed by yesterday's "rescue" flight.

"I wonder how all the people who have contributed money would feel about that?" she said.

* The trust became embroiled in a three-year Serious Fraud Office investigation that culminated last year in a failed prosecution against four men who were all found not guilty of a charge of conspiracy to defraud the trust of millions of dollars between 1997 and 2002.

- Additional reporting Louisa Cleave