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