Generous golfers give a record-breaking gift

Golf tournament, 12/05/2023. The Thistlers, Paul Rickard, Lee Pollitt, Dudley Meadows and John van Helden.
In a time of rising costs golfers rose to the occasion to make last week’s Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust Charity Golf Tournament a winning fundraising event.

The annual tournament has traditionally raised around $10,000 to help EHRT support the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter in its mission of saving time, saving lives.

“Because we had to close entries a couple of days before we did think it was going to be a great success,” says EHRT event organiser Sara McNaught. “But we didn’t anticipate raising a total of $13,613, so that was just incredible.”

The funds raised are a welcome boost for the service, which to keep on 24/7 standby costs over $900,000 a year, more than $300,000 of which must be raised by EHRT.

And it’s worth it. The Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter last year flew 248 missions, plus a further 101 for flight training, ferrying patients and maintenance flights.

EHRT treasurer Ian Parker says the pay-off from the tournament is much more than the sum of dollars raised . . . “though that is certainly appreciated!”

“As members of the community ourselves we really value the support we enjoy from the Poverty Bay Golf Club – which offers use of its Awapuni Links for free – and from the more than 130 players whose generosity is shown by their time on the green and at the after-game festivities.

“So it’s a combination of offering golfers a great day out while raising both the profile of the rescue service, and funds to help keep us operational and meet our commitments to our flight team and to our community.”

Just after midday on Friday, 33 teams of four tee’d off on a beautiful – if chilly – afternoon to play 18 holes of golf with team Juken NZ (Ed Pirini, Nick Murphy, Shaun Truelock and Anthony Battistella) eventually placing first overall.

“But it was at the after-match raffles and auctions they really showed their generosity,” Mrs McNaught says.

“We had fantastic prizes all gifted by local supporters, and that’s what made the difference on the day.”

The tournament has twice been postponed from March to May – last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this year because of the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle – but in its 18-year history has only been cancelled once, in 2020, again because of Covid-19.

“We don’t know whether that is good luck or just a quirk of timing, but we are very grateful to have been able to continue with our fundraising efforts,” says EHRT chair Patrick Willock.

“Though we are fundraising all year round the tournament is one of just two major events, the other being September’s Annual Charity Auction. So it’s a really important chance for us to both raise funds and to connect with a community that is so supportive of our commitment to providing this life-saving service.”

See Gisborne Herald for full results from the 2023 Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust charity golf tournament.

CAPTION ONE: Paul Rickard (left) is a big force in helping organise the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust Charity Golf Tournament and on the day played a spirited round with his team The Thistlers – (from second left) Lee Pollitt, Dudley Meadows and John van Helden – so named because they all at some stage played football for Gisborne Thistle AFC.

CAPTION TWO: They weren’t yet finished playing but Charity Golf Tournament team Westpac 1 swung by the clubhouse where team member Hamish Williams collected a steak sandwich from the stand manned by Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust member Murray Ferris.

CAPTION THREE: A member of Mahia Golf Club, Maraea Wessche (left) drove from her home in Nuhaka especially to play the EHRT Charity Golf tournament with teammates Arvin Lawler (right) and, not pictured, Dirk Bullivant and Jo Kerr. Arvin is fresh blood for the team – having moved to Gisborne just after Cyclone Gabrielle – but both Maraea and Dirk have seen the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter in action. Maeraea’s cousin required an uplift some 10 years ago, and Dirk was rescued when he was involved in accident riding his “old” Kawasaki KLR650 motorbike along Tiniroto Road. It was bad enough having broken his ankle, says Dirk, who well recalls the helicopter rescue pilot racing the weather to get him to safety, “but I was only about five kilometres away from the Tiniroto Tavern!”