Community comes through for helicopter rescue service

Despite facing a tough year of weather events the community came out in force to support the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust.

The Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust started with modest hopes for the charity auction it hosted at the weekend, but its supporters came out in force.

Held at the Showgrounds Event Centre on Saturday, the 2023 Bayleys EHRT Annual Charity Auction raised a “spectacular” $104,050 to help fund critical work done by the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter.

“It’s been a tough year for our community, especially for many of you in the farming sector, so we had kept our expectations low,” EHRT chair Patrick Willock told the more than 325 guests at the sold-out event.

“So to have achieved this result in the face of all those challenges is just spectacular and, once again, we are incredibly grateful for your support.”

As they arrived guests were greeted by the on-duty helicopter crew – who had landed at the Showgrounds for the event – and after they took off in a cloud of dust the dining and dancing got underway in earnest.

And it was all punctuated by the cries of father-and-son auctioneer team Neville and Cody Clark who kept bidding at a quick-fire pace.

Perhaps as a reflection of tough times faced over the past year, “experiences” were particularly hotly contested with guests bidding for everything from a day’s sailing aboard Tairawhiti Waka and an East Coast fishing trip to a barn party, a hunting adventure, and a chance to climb the iconic Hikurangi maunga.

Pete and Kylie Claffey did not yet know who they would take to the Matawhero Wines cellar door experience they won at auction, they just knew they wanted it.

Their business, Character Roofing, had been long-time backers of the service and donating via the auction was just another way of showing their support, Mrs Claffey said.

“It is such an incredible and necessary service that we love to get behind it,” she added. “Doing it this way makes for a really fun, social occasion.”

To reach the final tally funds were raised through a combination of ticket and merchandise sales, raffles, silent auctions and live auctions and Mr Willock says that with demand for the rescue service at an all-time high, they will be put to good use.

“We’ve had a year defined by terrible weather, cyclones and multiple States of Emergency and parts of our community, no matter how resilient, are less able to offer their support,” he told the audience.

“But your Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter is busier than ever so we are delighted that our 2023 event came together with incredible donations, auction items and, of course, the aroha you have shown by your presence here.

“Each and every dollar raised goes to the operation of your rescue helicopter in providing critical search, medical and emergency support in some of the most remote and hard-to-reach parts of our battered, but not broken, region.”

CAPTIONS: WELCOMING COMMITTEE: Greeting guests at the 2023 Bayleys Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust Annual Charity Auction.were (from left) Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter pilot Kurt Schierning, EHRT chair Patrick Willock, crewman Kelley Waite, EHRT treasurer Ian Parker and critical care flight paramedic Thomas Grantham.