Game-changing helipad opens

A new helipad on Stewart Island will provide an elevated level of care for members of the community and visitors alike.

Located at Traill Park, the emergency helipad is 12m in diameter and has enhanced safety features such as perimeter lighting and a windsock which will assist in emergencies.

Helipad working group member Mary Chittenden said the idea for the helipad was posed two years ago by recently retired council representative Bruce Ford, local nurse Martin Pepers and Helicopters Otago owner Graeme Gale.

However, the process was led by the Stewart Island Health Committee and a working group was formed in conjunction with representatives from the Future Rakiura group.

The main working group included Ms Chittenden, Julie Asher, Constable Stu Newton and Kirsten Hicks.

"It is very much a community project and we are extremely grateful for the way the community has pulled together to help with the construction and finishing of the project," Ms Chittenden said.

The $75,000 cost of the project was raised through the Stewart Island/Rakiura visitor levy, Sanford Salmon and Community Trust South, businesses and individuals.

Emergency personal and members of the community gather during the official opening of a rescue...
Emergency personal and members of the community gather during the official opening of a rescue helipad at Traill Park on Stewart Island on Saturday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
An opening ceremony which consisted of a blessing by kaumatua Phil Smith and a ribbon cutting was held on Saturday, Const Newton said.

"Now it is all about future proofing the area and keeping it functional, tidy and appealing."

Mr Gale said he was honoured to be the first pilot to land on the helipad.

"I could see the windsock from a mile away, so it is fantastic."

He believed it would be a "game changer" for paramedics, intensive care doctors, nurses and ill or injured patients.

Mr Ford was a "staunch supporter" of the helipad, having experienced a heart attack a couple of years ago.

"I needed to be transported to Dunedin hospital and I know I would not be alive today without the services.

"The essence of having a helipad helps enhance what we already have, and increases the survival statistics.

"Emergency services [will] no longer ... have to trudge through mud on a stretcher through a soggy paddock.

"That is certainly a marvellous initiative."