Like many 3-year-olds, Taikehu Hollingsworth is obsessed with helicopters. But there's one in particular he'll always recognise in Rotorua skies; the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter.

He hears it before he sees it, but once he spots it, he points to the scar on his chest then back to the chopper.

"Mum, look, it's my helicopter."

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That helicopter is the reason Taikehu is here today, says mum Chelsea Hollingsworth. And that's the reason they'll be attending a public meeting on Saturday to show their support for it.

The helicopter is at risk, there's a proposal to cut it.

After a smooth pregnancy and labour Hollingsworth was rushed into an emergency c-section, Taikehu had heart failure, his lungs were filling with blood and the doctors didn't know why.

The newborn was put in intensive care in Rotorua Hospital awaiting transfer to Waikato Hospital. He had total anomalous pulmonary venous return, an extremely rare heart condition.

"The helicopter staff waited on my son for three hours, maybe more, until he was stable enough to be taken to Waikato," Hollingsworth said.

"If they hadn't taken him to Waikato when they did, if they didn't look after my son, he would have died on that gurney.

"Without the helicopter my son wouldn't be here today."

Taikehu was later transferred to Starship children's hospital where he received open-heart surgery.


"I don't go a day where I don't think about them," Hollingsworth said.

"I look at my son every day and thank them he's alive."

Chelsea Hollingsworth says her son Taikehu, 3, would not be here today if it were not for the Bay Trust rescue helicopter. Photo / Andrew Warner
Chelsea Hollingsworth says her son Taikehu, 3, would not be here today if it were not for the Bay Trust rescue helicopter. Photo / Andrew Warner

The Rotorua and Taupo rescue helicopter services will be at risk if a new proposal goes ahead.

The National Ambulance Sector Office's (NASO) call for air ambulance services proposals does not include Rotorua or Taupo, which are the bases for the BayTrust and Greenlea rescue helicopters respectively.

The list of regions where air ambulances would be based under the new system would come into effect on November 1. Under the proposal, the closest bases would be in Tauranga, Hamilton and Palmerston North.

Since the announcement, at the start of April, a petition to save the Taupo service has been started and 1000 people marched in protest but Rotorua has been overlooked.

In a statement, Philips Search and Rescue Trust, which operates five rescue helicopters including Taupo and Rotorua, said an improved service from Tauranga and Taupo ought to be able to cover the responsibilities currently carried out by the Rotorua service.

BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said: "The only comment I would want to make is that in our view the Phillips Search and Rescue Trust are the experts in this area and we note that they issued a press release last week that summarised their views."

A public meeting is being held on Saturday at 10am about the helicopter. People are being asked to attend to show their support for the helicopter and find out the full story and what it means for the community.

BayTrust Helicopter base manager Ben Fry said the meeting was all about informing the community.

"Saturday is about getting the community together and a chance for us to explain what's happened, what's happening and what that means," he said.

He said the service did need to grow and get bigger and better but wondered what that might look like.

"We just want what's best for the community, that's the end game is what's going to provide the best service," Fry said.

"We're looking for answers as to what that's going to look like for the community and what that's going to involve. If it means they've got a bigger plan that's fine."

Fry said the Rotorua service had grown 36 per cent in the last year, from 169 call outs in 2016 to 229 in 2017.

The mayor and local MPs had also been invited to the meeting to show their support.

Hollingsworth said she would be attending and encouraged other to show their support too.

"It's very easy for people to think it doesn't affect them because it hasn't yet. I get upset now because I didn't pay attention to the helicopter before. It's easy not to care," she said.

"But as a mum, and as a mum whose baby was saved I just want to get it out there we can't do without them.

"I don't want a mum to be in my position without the helicopter, because that may be a mum that will have to bury her baby."

The meeting:
- When: Saturday, April 21, 10am.
- Where: Helicopter Hangar at Rotorua Hospital.
- What: A public meeting to show support for the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter and to find out what the proposal to close it is and what it means.