The South Island of New Zealand is a place like no other. From rugged coastlines and vast rural landscapes to lush forests and towering alpine peaks, it is an environment that has few equals.

When things go wrong in these environments we are at our most vulnerable and isolated. That is when our rescue helicopters provide a critical lifeline. Our Canterbury and West Coast Air Rescue Service covers the largest single geographical area in New Zealand, watching over the lives of more than 600,000 people, the two dedicated rescue helicopters and Rescue Crews are on call 24/7, 365 days a year.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter based in Christchurch and the NZCC Rescue Helicopter based in Greymouth are on standby 24 hours of the day, 365 days of the year – with a third, back-up helicopter and crew available in Christchurch should they be needed. From these two bases, our rescue crews cover a region from Kaikoura down to Waitaki on the East Coast, from Karamea to Haast on the West Coast – and everywhere in between.

At any given time of the day or night, a Rescue Helicopter Crew (consisting of a pilot, a Crewman and Intensive Care Paramedic) is on standby ready to deliver life-saving aid using the best training and technology.

Over a 24 hour period, an average of four people in the Canterbury West Coast region will place their lives in the hands of our Air Rescue Helicopter and Air Ambulance Crews.

In our vast and diverse rural environments, the speed and maneuverability characteristics of a Rescue Helicopter offer unique advantages and access over conventional land ambulances. In a life and death situation where every minute counts, Air Rescue may be a patient’s only chance for survival.

In trauma cases such as road accidents and medical emergencies, if a patient has access to the specialised care they need within one hour of the onset of illness or injury, their chances of making a complete recovery increase by up to 80%. This is recognised and referred to as “The Golden Hour”.

This is where our Air Rescue Crews make a real difference in the lives of our Canterbury and West Coast communities. They can provide advanced care to patients much faster than conventional emergency crews. In remote and hard to reach areas, Air Rescue can mean the difference between life and death.


Missions flown by our rescue services can be categorised into the following, general groups:

2017 Mission Types Pie Chart

We rescued over 900 people

in 2017 alone


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