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It may sound boring – until you need to be rescued

23 July 2004

It may sound boring – until you need to be rescued

At the end of a week which saw a number of people rescued from flooding or remote areas, rescue helicopter operators from across New Zealand and Australia are meeting in Auckland to improve the use of one of their vital tools – the rescue winch or hoist.

Over 100 delegates and observers representing nearly all civilian and military rescue helicopter operators, and civil aviation authorities from both sides of the Tasman are attending the inaugural Australasian Helicopter Hoist Operators Safety Conference.

The conference has been organised by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, operator of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Trust Chief Executive Rea Wikaira said New Zealand and Australia have huge tracts of land and coastline, extreme terrain and at times extreme weather conditions. Both countries rely heavily on rescue helicopters as an essential rescue tool.

“The flooding this week in Bay of Plenty and in Manawatu earlier in the year saw rescue helicopters come into their own.

“Rescue helicopters with hoists saved many lives during the ill-fated Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1998,” he said.

Mr Wikaira said with the Government warning New Zealanders to brace themselves for more, and possibly worse, floods, rescue helicopter operators need to ensure they are highly prepared to respond to such events.

“Despite the huge advances in rescue helicopter technology, training and skill levels over the past forty years, no safety standard for rescue hoisting has ever been set in New Zealand or Australia.

“A key objective of this conference is for the industry to take the bull by the horns and achieve this. We have a duty to the public we serve, and who support us so strongly, to always ensure we are providing them with the highest quality rescue service possible,” Mr Wikaira said.

“Auckland’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter has carried out over 12,000 accident-free missions, but that doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying to improve how we do things, he said.

The conference will be opened tomorrow morning by Cabinet Minister Hon John Tamihere, who will be “rescued” from the Waitemata Harbour by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

ENDS

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