Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron is concerned issues raised over the potential loss of a Taupo based regional helicopter rescue service will not be reflected in the Ministry of Health's final decision on future air ambulance services.
Tenders for a reshuffled air ambulance service across New Zealand closed in May with the Ministry of Health due to announce its decision shortly.
Cameron, along with Taupo mayor David Trewavas and Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, supported by Rotorua District Health Board representatives, met Health Minister Dr David Clark in April to voice the concerns of their communities.
"We all felt, at the time, that our meeting with the minister was very constructive and that our concerns would be taken into account in the decision making process.
"While we all support the improved patient care objectives of the tender process we stand firmly by our argument that the central North Island area with its unique terrain, and often extreme weather patterns, needs local pilots and crews with intimate local knowledge who are able to respond quickly to any event," Cameron said.
Rescue services talk about the 'golden hour' which refers to the first hour after a traumatic injury, when emergency treatment is most likely to be successful.
Cameron said adding an extra 20 to 30 minutes of flight time to a mountain rescue situation where hypothermia was often a factor was likely to push the arrival of emergency services outside the 'golden hour' window and could be the difference between life and death.
He said local communities were always generous with donations for what they see as their local rescue helicopter service.
"With a good chunk of funding coming from public donations, it remains to be seen if the loss of a rescue helicopter service would affect public donation from that region.
"The Ruapehu region and our National Parks are on target to have more than a million visitors per year in addition to servicing the resident population there is already a high workload.
"The increasing demands on rescue helicopter services may require new thinking about how they can be funded, such as a compulsory levy or insurance cover for tourists."