The Otago Regional
Council is the new main backer of the Otago Rescue Helicopter
Trust, after the Lion Foundation ended its funding.
Council chairman Stephen Cairns last night said the council
had agreed, subject to confirmation at tomorrow's council
meeting, to sponsor the trust at $250,000 a year.
The council had for more than a decade given $100,000 a year
to the trust. Mr Cairns said, when contacted, the sponsorship
deal would enable the helicopter to continue its operation 24
hours a day, seven days a week.
The service could be seen as not being part of the council's
core business, but the council viewed it as a significant
regional activity, Mr Cairns said.
The council funding was for a substantial period but he
declined to confirm details. Trust chairman Ross Black last
night said the Lion Foundation told the trust before
Christmas it would withdraw funding from March 31.
The trust had approached two parties, including the regional
council, to take over as the main sponsor. It was
‘‘brilliant'' the council had taken on the role.
He declined to name the other party. The service would be
known as the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter. The council
funding would cover fixed costs.
Mr Black said the Lion Foundation could no longer commit to
the sponsorship because of a lack of funds generated in the
Otago region. The foundation's funds come from more than 2700
poker machines across the country.
Mr Black said he was anxious after being informed by the Lion
Foundation of its withdrawal, but the council's move had
allayed any fears for a service ‘‘we all hope we never
The trust has operated for more than 10 years. It has fixed
costs of between $350,000 and $400,000 a year.
The service carries out just under 400 missions a year, with
the average mission lasting 1.2 hours. It covers 25% of the
land mass of New Zealand