The Lakes District Health Board, Ministry of Health and local Labour MPs say even though a rescue helicopter is no longer based in Rotorua, response times are estimated to be the same or faster than under the previous model.

This comes as a group of Rotorua residents last week worked with Rotorua MP Todd McClay to file the necessary legal documents to form a trust with hopes to reinstate a Rotorua-based helicopter.

Helicopters in Taupō, Tauranga, and Hamilton began servicing Rotorua six weeks ago when new National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO) air ambulance service contracts began.

An air rescue helicopter had been previously based in Rotorua since 1992.

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Luke Martin (left), Todd McClay, Mark Mortimer, Paul Sumner, Sandra Kai Fong and Ron Taylor hope to form a trust to reinstate Rotorua's rescue helicopter. Photo / File
Luke Martin (left), Todd McClay, Mark Mortimer, Paul Sumner, Sandra Kai Fong and Ron Taylor hope to form a trust to reinstate Rotorua's rescue helicopter. Photo / File

Ministry of Health community and ambulance manager Andrew Inder said last week the new air ambulance provider - Central Air Ambulance Rescue Limited - would phase in additional twin-engine helicopters over the next year.

"This will give clinical staff more room to provide comprehensive care on board, ensuring patients needing urgent clinical attention can get that care."

Labour List MP Angie Warren-Clark said "as the new twin-engine helicopters are phased in, the service will be greatly improved as the larger twin-engine machines are faster".

Rotorua MP Todd McClay has opposed changes to the air ambulance service. Photo / File
Rotorua MP Todd McClay has opposed changes to the air ambulance service. Photo / File

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said the new air ambulance services "provide our community with rapid response times and better access to the best hospital for their condition".

A group of residents hoping to restore the city's rescue helicopter service is proposed to be chaired by Mark Mortimer, who has been involved in funding and operating Rotorua's air ambulance services for more than a decade, as an associate sponsor and senior crewman.

Mark Mortimer said last week tues 11 he felt Rotorua had been "robbed".

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"We [proposed trustees] do not accept the notion that the system that has been put in place will actually serve Rotorua and its environs properly at all."

McClay said the group "remained concerned" about Rotorua's new service system.

Rotorua is 14 minutes flying time from Tauranga; 18 minutes from Taupō and 26 minutes from Hamilton (under optimal flying conditions).

When asked if a community-funded rescue helicopter would be money well spent by the district, the Lakes DHB's responded: "The new contract for the central region is an exclusive, nationally organised contract with NASO, ACC and the DHBs."

"The new contracts and services across the whole of the country are the result of a nationally driven process and as a result, there are contractual obligations that have been agreed to and which are now in place."

Mayor Steve Chadwick said she "was assured that Rotorua would not be disadvantaged by not having a helicopter based locally".

The Philips Search and Rescue Trust, which previously operated the Rotorua-based helicopter, said it would not comment on the matter until it had direct communications from members of the proposed trust.

The trust's formal registration is expected early in the new year.