Rescue helicopter demand at new high

Otago Regional Rescue Helicopters spent nearly 3000 hours in the air last year as demand for the service increased to new highs.

The rescue helicopter service took part in a record number of rescues and flew 30% more mission hours than last year.

Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust trustee Stephen Woodhead, trust secretary manager Vivienne Seaton and HeliOtago managing director Graeme Gale presented the trust’s annual report to their major funder, the Otago Regional Council.

Mr Woodhead said there had been significant growth in the number of patients dealt with by rescue helicopters over the past year.

Helicopters had picked up 1703 patients across the lower South Island last year, an increase of 28%, which meant helicopters were attending four or five emergencies every day.

"When you look at the total number of hours flown ... 2949, that’s eight hours a day," Mr Woodhead said.

Because many life-saving procedures could not be undertaken outside Dunedin, HeliOtago and the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust played a vital role in retrieving patients for medical emergencies and transfers, as well as responding to accidents and search and rescue operations, the trust and council said in a joint statement.

The trust’s presentation to councillors last week highlighted the challenges some funding groups had because of restrictions on gatherings due to Covid-19.

But they said groups had changed plans and the long stretch of Alert Level 1 without restrictions in the first half of 2021 allowed a variety of fundraising activities to go ahead.

The council donates $350,000 a year to the trust.



It concerns me with Covid how the helicopters and ambulances are going to keep up with taking people to Dunedin hospital when they are already pretty committed with the wonderful and essential services they provide daily.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter