Removing Taupo's rescue helicopter service is not an option, and the Government must weigh-in on the issue to make things right, says the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board.
The board is calling for action after learning that a request for proposal from the National Ambulance Sector Office does not include a rescue helicopter base in Taupo. Rotorua is also not included.
Echoing concerns shared by the Taupo District mayor earlier this week, board chief executive Topia Rameka said removing the Taupo base would dramatically affect the risk to people who needed the service.
"This is a major concern for us... We understand that under the new system Taupo would still be serviced by other areas, but they are a further hour away – which could be the difference between life and death for the hundreds of rescues made in our rohe [region] every year."
Taupo has the Greenlea rescue helicopter, which is based at Taupo Airport, which would cease to operate if this new proposal, in its current form, goes ahead.
"Not only does Greenlea perform hundreds of missions every year, it also provides our local police and search and rescue with 24/7 support.
"Taupo is experiencing a tourism boom; there are thousands of people crossing Tongariro every week, and we have increasing levels of recreational activity taking place on our lake and in our forests.
"Our emergency response will be severely compromised if this proposal goes ahead. This in turn could have a major impact on our health and safety performance, and negative implications on the reputation of our tourism industry. We can't afford to put our people at risk, we must have a base here in Taupo."
Rameka said the board would like to see the Taupo service included in the RFP and is calling on the Government to intervene and show some leadership.
"We need a whole of Government approach to this issue and we should all be very concerned about the implications of these emergency services leaving our regions and be working together to find an optimal solution."