Big boost for West Coast Rescue Helicopter
By: Georgia O’Connor-harding
The West Coast’s emergency helicopter has received $14,000 of funding to ensure the continuation of its life-saving air service. Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue’s chief executive Christine Prince travelled over from Christchurch to Greymouth on Tuesday for a presentation after a huge fundraising effort by the Rapid Relief Team to support the ROA Mining Rescue Helicopter.
She said the funding was incredible, especially in the current Covid-19 environment.
“We recognise it is tough all round for people but we are just so heartened by the fact that people put their hands up, step forward and say ‘we want to help’.”
Due to Covid-19, fundraising for the service was down 50%, Mrs Prince said. But she said it was amazing to have a wonderful community of people and businesses including Electronet, Freemasons and Westfleet sponsoring the service.
Seventy per cent of mission costs are covered by the Government, with the rest made up from donations — but the fundraising costs to run the service is high.
Every year the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust will set a target of fundraising $6 million to go towards the operational cost of its two helicopters in Christchurch and Greymouth.
Mrs Prince said the service was a “lifeline” on the West Coast. She said if a helicopter reached a patient within 60 minutes and started treatment, their chance of making a full recovery increased by 80%. “Now since the advances we have had with a twin engine helicopter, we have an intensive care paramedic on every flight and this is a world class service. But we just need ongoing funding to ensure we can get all the best equipment and we can keep the service operating.”
Each mission costs an average of $5000, and the helicopter burns through about 300 litres of aviation fuel an hour.
Rapid Relief Team member Vern Hoyle said it was important to help an organisation which aligned so strongly with its own values of “community, compassion and support” and helped those in need. “Everyone is happy to support what is essential to the West Coast,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ROA Mining Rescue Helicopter is currently away in Timaru to receive upgrade work and to be painted in the West Coast colours. It is expected to return to the West Coast between October and November and a loan helicopter will be used in the meantime.