Generous donor secures future fund for rescue helicopter

A long-time supporter of the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust (EHRT) has helped launch a new fund to secure the future of the regions rescue helicopter service. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has seeded the Eastland Rescue Helicopter Endowment Fund at The Sunrise Foundation.

Established in 1988 and governed by a trust board, EHRT is a not-for-profit charitable organisation. They work hard every year to fundraise the money needed to keep the essential rescue service on 24/7 standby.

Patrick Willock, EHRT Chair, says the rescue helicopter is vital to our community. “We fly about 145 missions a year, this includes rescues, but many people aren’t aware that a large part of our work is transporting patients from around the region to Gisborne and larger centres for treatment. A key objective of the helicopter trust is to ensure people of the Gisborne and East Coast region have equity of access to medical services.”

Jane Williams, EHRT Trustee, lived up the Coast for 30 years and has seen the service in action many times. She believes it is essential we have a local helicopter service, “it is arguably more important in a region such as ours to have a localised service. If our helicopter was run out of a bigger centre such as Napier, patients would have at least an hour longer journey to treatment and we would lose much of our day to day patient transport service.”

The helicopter trust came into being as a result of Cyclone Bola. Helicopters from around the district pulled together to reach areas compromised by the disaster. Dennis Hartley, a local helicopter pilot, spoke on Radio Ngati Porou after the event about the part helicopters played in the rescue and support of people hurt and endangered by the event. By the end of his time on air people in our community, and from as far away as the Chatham Islands, spontaneously donated $6,300 and as a result the rescue helicopter was established.

Glenda Stokes, Sunrise Executive Officer, says this shows how much the rescue helicopter service resonated in the community and this continues to the present day. “Our rescue helicopter is treasured by the community. We’re honoured to be in a position to help fundraise to keep the service viable for future generations.”

Murray Ferris, EHRT Trustee, says flying the rescue helicopter in our region is formidable and the terrain some of the hardest in NZ to navigate. “With no ambient light to guide them, flying is challenging. We are fortunate to have excellent pilots who know our region well.”

Murray added, the EHRT is volunteer led with one full-time pilot, “we run a lean mean organisation, overheads are kept low. Our focus is on continuing to deliver a reliable and efficient rescue service to the community.”

Patrick considers the Sunrise endowment model to be a good concept. “People in the community can be confident in the knowledge their donation to our fund will be an enduring legacy for the helicopter service.”

All donations to the Eastland Rescue Helicopter Endowment fund will be invested, protected and grown to keep up with inflation. The surplus investment income will be returned to the charity each year. Glenda pointed out that the helicopter charity will be able to rely on funding each year, which will grow over time. “It is hard every year to fundraise the amount of money they need to keep the helicopter in the air, this fund will guarantee a reliable source of income forever.”

If you would like more information on how you can make a difference for the ECT Rescue Helicopter call Glenda at the Sunrise Foundation on 06 867 7939 or email glenda at sunrisefoundation.

Download the fact sheet here.