Arthur the 'poster boy' for Westpac chopper appeal

WESTPAC Bank’s annual Chopper Appeal Month starts today and a Gisborne whanau is sharing their story to encourage donations to keep our community safe.

WESTPAC Bank’s annual Chopper Appeal Month starts today and a Gisborne whanau is sharing their story to encourage donations to keep our community safe.

With their Tiniroto home cut off by slips caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, the McNaught family had no choice but to activate their Personal Locator Beacon when four-year-old Arthur broke his arm in a motorbike accident.

“We couldn’t believe how quickly the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter got here . . . it was only around 20 minutes and we were so relieved to see them,” says Arthur’s mother, Sarah-Jane.

“And they were amazing with Arthur. He was upset, tired and in a lot of pain, but before flying us to Gisborne Hospital they comforted him, gave him a little toy car, and showed him pictures of
motorbikes, which he loves!

“Being so helpless really brought home how much of a lifeline the helicopter service is. It deserves every bit of support it can get.”

The rescue was just one of countless missions flown by New Zealand rescue helicopters during and after recent storm events around the country.

The crews’ efforts came after another record-breaking year of missions in 2022 . . . a total of 9874 rescues were carried out across New Zealand, including 248 missions by the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter.

The Gisborne/Tairāwhiti team also undertook a further 101 flights for purposes including flight training, ferrying patients and maintenance flights.

Westpac NZ chief executive Catherine McGrath recently visited the East Coast to see the extent of weather damage and the scale of the recovery ahead, and she asks the public to give generously to
support the helicopters’ vital work.

“We love working with the choppers to make Aotearoa a greater, safer place, whether it’s during large-scale emergencies or helping people who get into trouble in their day-to-day lives,” Ms McGrath says.

“Recent events have highlighted that a chopper is always there for you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Through our fundraising during the month of May we’re aiming to help keep it that way.”

To do their bit, Westpac staff in Gisborne will have collection buckets in the foyers of Countdown and The Warehouse from 10am to 3pm on Thursday, May 4 and are delivering collection buckets to a selection of local businesses, where supporters can also buy fundraising Rescue Helicopter Jellybeans.

Alternatively, people can go on-line at, where they can direct their donation straight to the Tairāwhiti service.

“Please look out for our people shaking buckets on Appeal Day and support them with a donation,” Ms McGrath says.

“We know there are communities struggling to make ends meet at the moment, so please give only what you can. Every dollar will go directly to your local chopper and help towards keeping them in the air.”

Westpac’s 2022 Chopper Month appeal raised some $1.28 for rescue helicopters around the country and the Eastland Rescue Helicopter Trust (EHRT) received $4500, which had come direct from the local community.

“Trust Tairāwhiti’s input to the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter is an enormous help in terms of security of service but we still need to raise some $300,000 a year to keep our team in the air,” says EHRT chair Patrick Willock.

“So we really value Westpac’s efforts, both in the donated funds that come back to Tairāwhiti, and in raising awareness of services around the country.”

CAPTION: His Spiderman t-shirt couldn't save him, but the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter did when Arthur McNaught (4) was injured near his isolated Tiniroto home.