Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust has a proud history steeped in regional resilience and thousands of hours of volunteer time and commitment.
The original organisation was formed in Ruatoria in 1988 by enthusiasts after Cyclone Bola demonstrated the value of a helicopter for emergency works. Ruatoria helicopter owner operator Denis Hartley and iwi, community, and business representatives formed the first trust. Over the next few years the community helped fundraise for more equipment.
In 2000 the service moved to Gisborne to access greater funding and form a closer relationship with St John. During this time the service received partial funding from JN Williams Memorial Trust and later The Lion Foundation, which secured naming rights for the helicopter.
Over the next decade the service continued via the dedication and fundraising efforts of trustees, as well as the public, and the helicopter’s sponsors. The trust also managed large-scale changes in civil air regulations and contracting arrangements. In 2012 all rescue trusts around the country signed contracts with the Government through the National Ambulance Sector Office.
In 2014 Eastland Rescue Helicopter Trust opened a hanger at Gisborne Airport providing the rescue helicopter with a dedicated home.
In 2017, Trust Tairāwhiti committed to $350,000 a year for five years to support the rescue helicopter’s operations – and as a result, the helicopter was renamed Trust Tairāwhiti Rescue Helicopter. The Trust’s commitment has gone a long way to providing a community portion of the approximate $700,000 annual cost of keeping the helicopter and its crew operating. The trust’s annual charity auction and golf tournament are extra sources of community funding. In 2019 the annual charity auction earned around $90,000.
In 2020 and 2021 during the country’s lockdowns and subsequent Covid-19 pandemic the helicopter service operated as an essential service. Pilots and paramedics took precautions for many months to keep themselves and their patients safe. Adding to the challenges the annual charity auction and other events were cancelled.
In 2022, and with the world returning to a level of normality, Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust raised $10,500 from its golf event and around $100,000 from the auction. Trustees were delighted in November 2022 when Trust Tairāwhiti committed to another five years of future funding starting with $350,000 for the next 12 months.
The Trust Tairāwhiti Rescue Helicopter and its pilots, paramedics, and crew continue to save time and lives on the East Coast. The service helps people in farm and forestry locations, vehicle, workplace and recreational incidents, and medical emergencies. In the year ended March 2022, the helicopter flew 234 missions.
For a more detailed account of the years 1988-2014, read Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust: A History 1988-2014 by long serving trustee and current chair Patrick Willock. A detailed account of the years beyond 2014 is underway.
What's in a name?
We often get asked to clarify the name of our trust, our major sponsor (also a trust), and the name of the helicopter. It’s a bit confusing, so to clear things up:
Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust
This is the not-for-profit charitable trust helping deliver lifesaving critical care to patients on the East Coast. The trust’s volunteers work hard to raise the money needed to keep the essential rescue service ready on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Trust Tairāwhiti Rescue Helicopter
This is the name of our rescue helicopter which incorporates the name of our major sponsor, Trust Tairāwhiti.
Trust Tairāwhiti is a community trust and the sole shareholder of Eastland Group a company that specialises in regional infrastructure such as Eastland Port, Gisborne Airport and Eastland Network. The East Coast community is at the heart of everything the trust and its economic development agency invest in and do. We’re hugely grateful for the support of Trust Tairāwhiti (and its predecessor) since 2009.
Search and Rescue Services Limited
Also known commonly as SRSL, this national body was formed and is operated by five rescue helicopter trusts in the North Island including Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust. Our pilots and paramedics are employed by SRSL and it owns our rescue helicopter.