Philips Search and Rescue Trust has sold Rotorua's helicopter, but the trust says the sale won't impede its ability to provide a rescue service for Rotorua.

The Taupō-based trust is contracted by the Government to operate a rescue helicopter service in Rotorua until October 31.

However, Rotorua MP Todd McClay said in his opinion the "secret sale of the Rotorua rescue helicopter is a disgrace".

Trust secretary David Wickham confirmed the trust had sold the Rotorua helicopter but it still had three aircraft in the Bay of Plenty.


In May this year, the trust provided a twin-engine helicopter for Tauranga's Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter service.

"What we have done is rationalised our fleet and we still have enough machinery to carry on the service.

"It didn't really matter a damn to us which one was sold, we sold the one that was quickest and could sell at the best price."

In April this year, it was announced the National Ambulance Sector Office had excluded Taupō and Rotorua from the list of proposed helicopter bases.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay says the writing is on the wall for Rotorua's Rescue Helicopter service. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua MP Todd McClay says the writing is on the wall for Rotorua's Rescue Helicopter service. Photo / Stephen Parker

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

Wickham said today the confidentiality around the tender process was very strict.

"It would be irresponsible of me to breach it."

The tender process had now moved into formal negotiations and the agreed providers for each region would be announced after negotiations.


The first announcement was expected later this month.

Since the tender process was announced, about 1000 people attended a protest in Taupō and almost 500 people attended a public meeting in Rotorua.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick previously met with Health Minister David Clark in Wellington to have the helicopters added to the document.

"If it unfolds the Government wants us to continue in Rotorua, the Tauranga helicopter would be rebranded and go to Rotorua," Chadwick said in April.

"What we've done is not in any way impeding our ability to respond to whatever the Government comes up with."

But, McClay said all signals seemed to be quite negative for Rotorua and, in his opinion, the writing was on the wall for Rotorua's helicopter rescue service.

"We are weeks away from the announcement, everyone is sworn to secrecy but now other areas are being upgraded and our helicopter has been sold.

"I understand the old Tauranga chopper is also for sale. Rotorua doesn't want Tauranga's cast offs, that the trust could not sell it is its problem and not Rotorua's."

He said he was fearful a decision had been made to remove it, putting Rotorua at risk of losing the service and if the Rotorua base was closed lives would be lost.

"I imagine the people of Rotorua will be very, very angry and they should be. We have been misled, let down and could end up with a service that is worse and more expensive.

"The chopper was maintained with money from local people and trusts and now it has been sold, the money shepherded out overnight to bolster Tauranga and Taupō."