Hawke's Bay residents have been given a "pertinent" reminder of what they stand to lose, under a proposal to scrap the Taupo-based Greenlea rescue helicopter base.

Greenlea helicopter pilot Nat Every said Hawke's Bay patients could have to wait at least 50 minutes for help if proposals to scrap bases in Taupo and Rotorua went ahead.

The longer wait was likely to occur in cases when the Hastings-based rescue helicopter was unavailable, as it was on Friday when the Greenlea helicopter was dispatched toward Tutira.

A car had left a rural road and the driver was reported to be trapped in the vehicle.


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"The ever busy helicopters of Gisborne and Hastings which traditionally service the region were already tasked elsewhere, as was the Westpac Waikato Rescue helicopter," a spokesperson said.

"Fortunately the Taupo based Greenlea helicopter was able to assist the Hawkes Bay community and provide cover in the absence of their local rescue helicopters."

Although no-one needed to be taken to hospital , it was a pertinent reminder of what would be lost under new restructuring proposals.

Under the National Ambulance Sector Office's call for tenders to provide air ambulance services proposals, neither Taupo nor Rotorua are included.

"People in Hawke's Bay need to be aware of the implications it will have on them.

"Combined, the Taupo and Rotorua helicopters, last year did more than 400 jobs. Those jobs aren't going to go away - someone is going to have to pick them up."

Proposed new areas would mean the Hastings helicopter covering a large section of Taupo.

"Consequently, you'll have to think there will be significant time periods when the Hawke's Bay helicopter is over this way to address some of these jobs, previously covered by the Taipo-Rotorua helicopter.
While the Hawke's Bay helicopter is over here supporting the community, who is going to be supporting the Hawke's Bay community? There are flow-on effects for all the regions around us.

" There was a very pertinent example on Friday. Gisborne was on search and Hawke's Bay was on another primary job, so obviously we were the next ones able to assist.

"Further to that Hamilton were also tasked at the same time. So at least three helicopters were all tasked out and that's not an unusual situation. In the abscess of Rotorua-Taupo, the nearest helicopter that could have assisted that injured party in Hawkes' Bay would have been coming from Tauranga or Palmerston North."

It would take a helicopter from Palmerston North at least 50 minutes to attend a call-out in Hawke's Bay - about 30 minutes longer than it would take the Greenlea rescue helicopter.

"That's a significant time delay."

Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust last week said the proposed changes would not affect Hawke's Bay, which had retained its service, and that the trust was supportive of them.