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NBS Rescue Helicopter Appeal for safe, essential missions


With Government funding covering only 40% of operational costs, donations to the NBS Rescue Helicopter Appeal for the local rescue helicopter service are essential to keep the crew flying and safe, so they can keep the community safe.

Local banking institution NBS kicks off the NBS Rescue Helicopter Appeal today, which aims to shine a light on the life-saving work of the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust (NMRHT) and give a significant boost to funding. The month-long October appeal is part of NBS’s ongoing sponsorship of the rescue service, contributing to its work for the safety and wellbeing of the residents and visitors to the top of the South Island.

The NMRHT is a charitable trust and is only partially government funded for the 500+ missions they fly every year. So far in 2020, the helicopter has averaged 10 missions per week, at an average cost of $3,500 per mission. As at September, the crew has played a critical role in saving 326 lives.

The rescue helicopter team is highly skilled, trained in navigating obstructive environments, water rescue, high altitude, day and night winching, and bush, snowline and avalanche survival. Ensuring this expertise meets regulatory requirements costs approximately $120,000 a year.

NMRHT chief crewman Paul (Ernie) Bryant says ensuring the crew is safe is extremely important, in what is often a dangerous job.

“It’s not a job for everyone, hanging out with a winch 150 feet above ground,” Bryant said. “We can be called to help anywhere, ending up in all sorts of environments, day and night. Safety gear for pilots and crew, including fire retardant clothing, all-terrain boots, flight suits, personal locator beacons, life vests and night vision goggles adds up to around $35,000 for each team member.”

Intensive Care Paramedic Prue Young says the service needs a lot of funding, but it is essential.

“Every job is different, every patient is different,” said Young. “We always need more equipment and ongoing training if we are to do the best job we can for people. Funding allows us to be at peak condition, highly trained, with the right equipment ready to go when the call comes, and it will come.”

NMRHT Pilot Euan Stratford was involved in the Whakaari - White Island rescue mission, bringing a patient home to Nelson from Whakatane.

“We are ready and waiting for every phone call, needing to respond in 10 minutes each time,” Stratford said. “All jobs have challenges, but the Whakaari - White Island rescue was one I am not going to forget in a hurry. It was a very long and upsetting day in New Zealand’s history.”

NBS CEO Tony Cadigan says the entire NBS team feels strongly about keeping the rescue helicopter team safe “while they do incredibly dangerous things to keep us safe."

“We’re now a major sponsor of the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust and proud to have the NBS brand on the nose of the chopper,” Cadigan said. “We regularly hear the stories from the crew and are extremely impressed at their expertise and commitment to the job, regardless of the situation. It is not a job for the faint-hearted, they are amazing.

“The community has always shown fantastic support of the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust, and we hope this year’s Appeal is no different.”

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