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The trust is a step closer to building an emergency helipad, following the Government’s recommendation Land Information New Zealand (Linz) release a section of Department of Conservation (Doc) land next to the Kurow Medical Centre.
Linz has been working with Ngai Tahu to transfer the land title to Doc, which will then vest it to the Waitaki District Council — which will in turn lease it to the Waitaki Valley Medical Trust.
At present, emergency helicopters land near the Kurow rugby grounds and patients are taken there by ambulance from the medical centre.
The 1.4km journey could involve up to 10 people and could be stressful for the patients, Mr Abelen said.
A helipad next to the medical centre would enable medical staff to wheel patients "straight out the door of the medical centre, straight into the back of the [helicopter]", Mr Abelen said.
The trust had been working on the helipad project for about five years. It had not able to move forward after discovering the section of land it wanted to build on was Crown land, and Doc wanted to charge the trust $77,000 for the 80sqm section.
The trust had consulted Ngai Tahu, which supported the helipad project, Mr Abelen said, but getting the land transferred had been a long drawn out battle.
"I had virtually given up on it.
"I didn’t think it was going to happen ... we were going nowhere," he said.
As a "last resort", the trust asked for help from Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who contacted Minster of Conservation Eugenie Sage about the issue.
"Without Jacqui’s help we wouldn’t have got there," Mr Abelen said.
Mrs Dean said she was pleased to see some progress.
"I have made contact with the Minster of Conservation Eugenie Sage on several occasions to discuss the issues around the land.
"The minister is now awaiting a brief from Linz regarding the [land] transfers, but has promised a result by the end of the month."
The Waitaki Valley Medical Trust, which owns the Kurow Medical Centre buildings and grounds and a doctor’s house, had already done some fundraising for a helipad, Mr Abelen said.
"I would imagine once the land is leased to us, once it actually goes through, we’ll get a helipad under way fairly smartly," he said.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said it was a positive development.
"All going well, it won’t be used very often, but it’s going to be very important if there are emergencies," Mr Kircher said.