Local leaders and residents are thrilled Rotorua and Taupo's rescue helicopters are now "in the game" after weeks of campaigning to keep the at-risk services.
But there is still a way to go to ensure the services are retained in the areas.
Rotorua and Taupo will now be able to take part in proposals for the future air ambulance services they were originally excluded from.
The National Ambulance Sector Office is proposing a nationally integrated air ambulance service across the country and issued a "request for proposals" which did not include Rotorua or Taupo, meaning they were are risk of being cut.
But there has been a change of tune after a meeting yesterday between Health Minister David Clark, mayors and district health board representatives.
"It's been such a community concern. We've had 1000 people turn up to a march in Taupo and 500 to a meeting in Rotorua," Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said.
He said the result was a good start.
"I doesn't mean we get to keep it but it means we're in the game. Before we weren't even in the game.
"We had it confirmed we were within our rights to submit a proposal."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the meeting was productive and the result was wonderful.
"There's more work to be done now and there are more conversations to be had but it was a very productive meeting," she said.
Health Minister David Clark said the meeting had been positive and constructive and those attending had "understandable concerns".
Clark said the proposal was about modernising the fleets, not just about where they were based.
"It's about the quality of care you can provide when you arrive at an emergency, and the care you can provide once you're in the air on the way to hospital.
"I was able to reassure the mayors that no decisions have been taken, and all existing providers are welcome to put in tenders as long as they meet clinical requirements. All tenders will be considered on their merits.
"This is not a cost-cutting exercise – it is driven by wanting to improve clinical outcomes."
But Chelsea Hollingsworth whose son was saved by the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter said "considering" keeping the services, wasn't good enough.
"Has it not been shown there are people that will lose their lives if this is not available?
"For them just to be considering it, it's like people's lives are just being considered.
"At least we're getting somewhere. To be considered is definitely better than not."
Rotorua barrister Jonathan Temm, who spoke at an event in support of the helicopter on the weekend, said the update was a "big step forward" but the fight wasn't over.
"I'm really pleased to see the minister has listened and addressed part of the issue. But there's no certainty that at the end of the process the same outcome would be achieved. We still run the risk of losing Rotorua and Taupo."
Temm said the community deserved credit as many people had banded together.
The BayTrust Rescue Helicopter attended a crash Temm's son was involved in about eight years ago.
"The helicopter does a lot of things that are hard to describe but have a profound effect."
Taupo mayor David Trewavas also attended the meeting yesterday and said he now felt confident the tenders for the Rotorua and Taupo helicopters would be considered.
"I got the assurance from the minister that would be the case so we were very happy."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said although the decision was a step forward, there were still a lot of questions which hadn't been answered.
"The question remains why they were excluded to start with."
Rotorua-based list MP for NZ First Fletcher Tabuteau was glad to hear the tenders would be considered.
"These operations have been running under incredible hardship for some time and been left to their own devices.
"There is clearly a need for all responsible parties to continue to collaborate and communicate to ensure that a fully resourced and responsive rescue helicopter service is available."
Rescue helicopter callouts in 2017:
Hamilton - 654
Palmerston North -286
Taupo - 237
Rotorua - 229
Tauranga - 203
- Philips Search and Rescue Trust