A group of Rotorua residents have banded together to form a new trust, hoping to restore the city's rescue helicopter service.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay, the agreed settlor of the proposed trust, met with Mark Mortimer - the proposed chairman - Sandra Kai Fong, Paul Sumner, Luke Martin and Ron Taylor yesterday, after legal documents were filed for charitable trust status.
All of the proposed trustees have been involved in either financial or operational support of rescue helicopter services in the Bay of Plenty, or both.
Rotorua's former BayTrust Rescue Helicopter was axed in early October, six months after the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO) made air ambulance service contract proposals excluding Rotorua and Taupō.
Taupō retained its service.
NASO is managed jointly by the Ministry of Health and ACC.
There was public a outcry and 500 Rotorua residents gathered at the helicopter hangar calling for the service to remain.
The Rotorua, Ruapehu District and Taupō mayors met the Health Minister David Clark and ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway in Wellington, but the Rotorua service was not saved.
From November 1, Rotorua has been covered by helicopters in Taupō, Tauranga and Hamilton.
Todd McClay told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday, "there is ongoing concern in the community about the need for rescue services here".
"We do know the Rotorua chopper was a very busy service... Also covering helicopters in other parts of the region and outside of it."
Holland Beckett Rotorua Lawyers carried out the legal work for the trust application, pro bono.
McClay said the next step was formal registration, then early next year the group would talk to the public about the next steps.
The trust will seek public financial support and corporate donors.
"There are a number of corporate sponsors who have said they would like to support a rescue helicopter being based in Rotorua," McClay said.
Mark Mortimer has been involved in both funding and operating Rotorua's air ambulance services for more than a decade, as an associate sponsor and a senior crewman.
He said demand for the Rotorua rescue helicopter service was increasing in the year leading up to its discontinuance.
"We are not only concerned about Rotorua, we are concerned about the deficit in the wider Bay of Plenty. It's the communities that aren't speaking for themselves, the likes of Te Urewera and Murupara... Those are the places that are going to miss out big time."
Ron Taylor, a founding pilot of the Rotorua rescue helicopter, said the service was "essential", particularly because of the tourism, farming, forestry and sporting industries in Rotorua, and the remote locations they covered.
The Rotorua rescue helicopter service was officially launched in 1992 and at that time it was funded by the community.
The community was still funding 53 per cent of the costs this year.
If members of the public want to contact the proposed trust members with ideas or pledges for a reinstated Rotorua service, Todd McClay's office is taking correspondence on behalf of the group.