"Save our rescue helicopter" — that's the plea from Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron.

The emergency service provided by the Greenlea rescue helicopter at Taupo is under threat as part of a review of services across the North Island.

And Mr Cameron is concerned at the possible loss of what he describes as a "vital and proven life-saving capability" for the Ruapehu district.

There are currently 11 rescue helicopters operating out of Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo, Taranaki, Palmerston North and Wellington.


The Government's review of rescue helicopter and air ambulance services aims to split the North Island in two regions — Area 1: Auckland/Northland and Area 2: the rest of the North Island.

Within Area 2, the proposal is to locate helicopters bases at Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Palmerston North and New Plymouth — with Rotorua and Taupo missing out.

Mr Cameron said this proposal has caused widespread concern amongst Taupo, King Country and Central Plateau communities.

And he has written to the Ministers for ACC and Health, Iain Less-Galloway and Dr David Clark, asking that they intervene.

Mr Cameron said he had been in discussion with Taupo mayor David Trewavas on the best way to respond, adding that Mr Trewavas and Sir Tumu te Heuheu from Ngati Tuwharetoa had also written to the ministers seeking their help in saving the Taupo base.

He said rescue helicopters in Hamilton, Palmerston North and New Plymouth would be expected to take up the load and they would have a longer response/flight time and generally lack the intimate local knowledge that had enabled the Taupo helicopter to be so successful.

"The Greenlea Taupo rescue helicopter is a vital and proven life-saving capability in the Ruapehu district.

"Not only has it saved the lives of many visitors in the National Parks and its environs but many locals also owe their lives and or those of those close to them to rapid interventions by the Taupo helicopter.


"With the Ruapehu region on target to have over a million visitors per year in addition to servicing the resident population, there is already a high workload."

Mr Cameron said he had fielded numerous calls from worried people across the community.

"By way of example, a petition in support of the Greenlea Taupo rescue helicopter has already gathered well over 2500 signatures.

"This issue is of utmost importance and really is an issue of 'life and death' to the people of the Ruapehu and Taupo."

The Philips Search and Rescue Trust, which operates services from Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and Palmerston North, is also opposing the move.

In a statement, the trust said: "Given the geography of the Central North Island and our experience of the patient pickup point of emergency missions, we are of a view that discontinuing both Rotorua and Taupo will see a significant degradation in the public's access to pre-hospital emergency helicopter care.

"This would be so specifically in the region south of Lake Taupo where there is a very active and large recreational area frequented by many people. Often challenging climatic conditions can change extremely quickly.

"An improved service located from Tauranga and Taupo ought to be able to cover the responsibilities carried out by the Rotorua service."

The review of helicopter and air ambulance services also proposes considerable changes in relation to the scope and scale of the service, with a shift from the mixture of twin and single engine helicopters to solely twin engine aircraft.

There will also be a ramping up in the requirements of crewing, particularly in the area of paramedics and doctors. Providers will also be responsible for not only providing emergency paramedics, but also doctors and nurses for inter-hospital transfer missions.

Submissions to the proposals close on May 7, with upgraded services expected to be in place from November.

Rescue helicopter services are generally funded 50 per cent by government and 50 per cent by the community via sponsorship and donations.