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DOC staff killed in helicopter crash near Wanaka Airport

Department of Conservation (DOC) staff were on board a helicopter that crashed near Wanaka this morning.

The helicopter crashed shortly after take-off, killing the pilot and two DOC staff on board, the Otago Daily Times reports.

The ODT has reported that the pilot was Nick Wallis, the youngest son of Sir Tim Wallis and the brother of Matthew Wallis, who died when his helicopter crashed into Lake Wanaka three months ago.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has confirmed that Department of Conservation staff were onboard.

"There were DOC staff onboard who have lost their lives."

"I'm not able to give further details at this time but I did want to make sure that we were sharing our condolences on behalf of the government for those who have lost their lives."

"DOC staff go out everyday working on our behalf and for our environment, sometimes in really dangerous situations, and this is an absolute tragedy."

She said she knew how many staff were onboard but could not say yet.

"My understanding is we're still trying to reach family."

She said she knew what job they were out doing but would not say.

"I just want to be cautious around those details especially when we're trying to reach family and those who are directly affected by this incident."

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said the crash occurred about 1.5km north of Wanaka Airport's aerodrome, between the Clutha River and State Highway 6, shortly before 11am.

A St John spokesperson said three ambulances and a rescue helicopter were called to the scene, but were stood down with no passengers transported.

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) spokesperson said the helicopter involved appeared to be a Hughes 500.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage wouldn't say what the DOC staff were tasked with doing, or how many were on board - but called the crash a tragedy.

"There were DOC staff on board and it's an absolute tragedy and my heart goes out to their families and their workmates," Ms Sage said.

Any further detail is a matter for the police, she said.

"The Department is cooperating obviously, working closesly with the police."

A TAIC investigation has been launched and a team is expected to arrive at the site this evening.

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