Max Neustroski joined the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter team in January 2023 but just about missed the busy period after February’s Cyclone Gabrielle . . . just about.
Adding to the eight years he spent in the Royal New Zealand Navy as a Defence Force Medic, Max had to do two months’ crew training in Taupo before stepping up as the team’s newest Crewman/Paramedic.
“Towards the end of that time the Search and Rescue Limited trainer Whatarangi “Hek” Heke came with me to Gisborne to do some site-specific training with the local team,” he says.
“So we arrived the week starting February 20, just seven days after the cyclone hit, and it was all go.”
Not that Max isn’t used to high-pressure situations.
During his time with the Navy he undertook two tours of duty to Antarctica, where he worked as a communicator and on-call medic.
“I really loved it as, in addition to the work commitments, there is a lot to do there from skiing or snowboarding Scott Base’s own ski hill, to visiting Shackleton’s hut or socialising back at the base,” he says.
“The reason I got into this career was to combine my interest in medicine with a passion for adventure, and that sure was an adventure!”
At the end of the day, though, Max decided there was no place like home so was stoked to be able return to Gisborne to do the work he loves.
And it was not long before the sports-mad paramedic – who once won a marathon run on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf — was back into surfing and surf-life saving, rejoining his beloved Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club.
“Growing up in Gisborne I had a lot of great experiences with that club,” he says, “so it’s a chance for me to put something back.”