The absence of a rescue helicopter when a man was critically injured after suffering an electric shock was not because one wasn't available, but because one wasn't necessary.

At 11.25am on Wednesday a man suffered critical injuries after getting an electric shock from powerlines in a forestry area at Tikitere.

The man, in his 40s, had been using machinery when he hit the power lines.

A St John Ambulance spokeswoman said yesterday two ambulances were sent immediately to the area and arrived at the scene at 11.46am, left the site at 12.07pm and arrived at Rotorua Hospital by 12.26pm.


The man was later airlifted from Rotorua Hospital to Waikato Hospital where he is now in a stable condition in a ward.

A police media spokesman initially told the Rotorua Daily Post that a rescue helicopter was called to airlift the patient to hospital but one was "not available".

However, the Ministry of Health community and ambulance manager, Andrew Inder, said the ministry checked with St John, who operated the air ambulance dispatch desk, who said a rescue helicopter was not called.

St John decided, based on set criteria, that a road ambulance would provide a faster clinical response to the injured person.

"St John says that an air ambulance would have been available if needed," Inder said.

He said before introducing the new national air ambulance helicopter service, bases and response times were carefully considered.

"The conclusion for Rotorua was the three regions; Taupō, Tauranga and Waikato, would provide response times to incidents estimated to be the same or faster than under the current model.

"Plus the patient would be able to better access the best hospital for their condition," Inder said.

Philips Search and Rescue Trust secretary David Wickham said at the time of the Rotorua incident, both rescue helicopters from Taupō and Waikato were available.

Wickham said there was a set of criteria (ANTS) that air desk dispatchers applied to each incident to see whether a rescue helicopter was necessary.

"Neither were called despite both being available and the reason was that the patient's injuries did not warrant a rescue helicopter.

"If there had been a rescue helicopter in Rotorua it would not have been called either," he said.

Lakes District Health Board chief executive Ron Dunham supported the statements made by Inder.

He said there had been no issues with the new air ambulance service to date.

Dunham said after the patient was taken to Rotorua Hospital, he was then transferred by the Taupō helicopter to Waikato.

A pilot was told to leave Taupō just after 2pm, arrived in Rotorua at 2.37pm with an intensive care paramedic, then left Rotorua at 3.30pm arriving at Waikato Hospital at 3.50pm.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay today called for the Government to reverse its decision to get rid of Rotorua's own service and said he did not see how having one less rescue helicopter in the Bay of Plenty would provide a better service.

McClay said a meeting was held today with members of the public who had been involved with Rotorua's previous rescue service, and the local community was looking at creating its own stand-alone service.

"The most concerning thing here is they (Ministry of Health) only closed one base in the country and that was Rotorua.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay was against the removal of the Rotorua rescue helicopter service. Photo / File
Rotorua MP Todd McClay was against the removal of the Rotorua rescue helicopter service. Photo / File

"Rotorua deserves its own service," he said.

Readers on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page were quick to comment on the absence of the rescue helicopter in this case, saying it was needed and the Rotorua's service should not have been cut.

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said despite "blatant fear mongering", Rotorua's new air ambulance service would provide the community with on-site paramedics, effective and efficient response times, and better access to the best hospital for their condition.

Coffey was advised by the Ministry of Health that St John made the call that a road ambulance would be quicker in regards to the forestry accident in question, even though there was an air ambulance available.

"Along with our community, I trust their professional, highly-experienced opinion.

"I will continue to ensure Rotorua's air ambulance needs and actual results are heavily monitored and reviewed throughout this period of change, in order to ensure better health outcomes for our whānau."