Air res­cue trust founder, char­ity worker


Tony Hill re­mem­bers the days of he­li­copter res­cues in the dark be­fore night vi­sion gog­gles were in­vented.

As a founder and op­er­a­tor of the Queenstown-based Lakes District Air Res­cue Trust (L Dart), mis­sions were of­ten run from his ru­ral prop­erty.

Some­times he was mon­i­tor­ing the ra­dio for the res­cue con­trol cen­tre from his home. At oth­ers he was in the he­li­copter while wife Vickie was on ra­dio and wav­ing a torch so the pi­lot knew where to land in their back­yard.

He re­mains in awe of the lo­cal pi­lots who would use their ex­pe­ri­ence and skills to res­cue peo­ple be­fore the de­ploy­ment of night vi­sion gog­gles.

‘‘You just trusted that the pi­lot knew where they were go­ing.’’

Hill has been made a Mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit (MNZM) for ser­vices to the com­mu­nity, dis­abil­ity sport and health over 30 years.

One of his long­est in­volve­ments has been with L Dart, set up in 1991 to move from an ad hoc he­li­copter res­cue ser­vice to a for­mal op­er­a­tion with gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

‘‘It flew un­der the radar for the last 20-odd years. It was self suf- fi­cient and we had a fan­tas­tic sup­ply of he­li­copters and pi­lots here. It saved a lot of lives.’’

An­other long term in­volve­ment has been with the Hal­berg Dis­abil­ity Sports Foun­da­tion, which he joined in 2000 as a mem­ber of the Otago/South­land trustee group and be­came the di­rec­tor of the grants com­mit­tee.

He or­gan­ised func­tions in­clud­ing the well known Hal­berg Break­fasts in the Queenstown re­gion that raised thou­sands of dol­lars to as­sist the foun­da­tion in its work, and con­trib­uted his hos­pi­tal­ity skills to the Hal­berg Awards Din­ner. He was on the ex­ec­u­tive board for nine years, and be­came a life trustee in 2016.

With a back­ground in fi­nance, project man­age­ment and cor­po­rate man­age­ment, Hill is now a char­tered di­rec­tor and has been self em­ployed for the past 16 years.

He was re­cently voted on to the Queenstown Lakes District Coun­cil.

Hill is also a co-found­ing board mem­ber of the Queenstown Re­sort Col­lege and was chair of lo­cal coun­cil sub­sidiary, Lakes En­vi­ron­men­tal. He was also chair­man of the Wakatipu Pri­mary Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and a trustee of the South­ern Pri­mary Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Vanessa van Uden

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