Save chop­per

Waikato Times - - Front Page - ROBERT STEVEN and TA­MARA THORN

‘‘Don’t take away our res­cue he­li­copter.’’

That was the re­sound­ing cry from around 1000 protesters who braved atro­cious weather in Taupo¯ yes­ter­day to march in sup­port of their lo­cal Green­lea res­cue chop­per.

The protesters in­cluded Taupo¯ ’s Mayor David Tre­wavas, Taupo¯ MP Louise Up­ston, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of dozens of out­door groups, emer­gency ser­vices, GreyPower and dozens of other groups. The crowd chanted ‘‘Save our chop­per’’ as it headed through heavy rain along Lake Ter­race into the cen­tre of Taupo¯ .

Some protesters were on walk­ers and wheel­chairs, while one was wheeled down the road at the head of the col­umn on a gur­ney.

The Min­istry of Health is plan­ning to dis­solve re­gional he­li­copter bases in Taupo¯ , Ro­torua and Te Anau. The ar­eas will be ser­viced from Hamil­ton, Napier and Whanganui in­stead.

Lakes District Health Board mem­ber Chris­tine Rankin said New Zealan­ders were of­ten very po­lite and didn’t al­ways stand up for the things they should. But the num­bers that turned out to protest proved the com­mu­nity re­ally cared about their chop­per.

‘‘This sit­u­a­tion is ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s ex­tremely un­eth­i­cal at the very least, no con­sul­ta­tion, no warn­ing and can I tell you as part of the Lake District Health Board, we heard about this when you did. Not a word of warn­ing, no dis­cus­sion, and no ad­vice.’’

She said the Lakes DHB would do ev­ery­thing it could to save it.

‘‘Let me be very clear . . . peo­ple are go­ing to die if we don’t have an ap­pro­pri­ate he­li­copter res­cue ser­vice.’’

For­mer Taupo¯ mayor Joan Wil­liamson said this was the first time she’d signed a pe­ti­tion against any­thing.

‘‘I have never ever signed a pe­ti­tion in my en­tire ca­reer be­cause I have al­ways seen there are two points to things and two thoughts. But this pe­ti­tion is one that I made the ex­cep­tion to and I am very, very happy to sign it be­cause I feel very, very strongly about the safety and well­be­ing of our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties around our lake.

‘‘All I can say is it is not well thought out, we need to do what we are do­ing here and show those that make the de­ci­sions.’’

Green­lea pi­lot and base man­ager Nat Every said bas­ing the ser­vice out of Hamil­ton meant at least an ex­tra 45 min­utes of travel time.

In poor weather, travel times could be much longer be­cause of the moun­tain­ous ter­rain around Lake Taupō. He said the Taupō and Ro­torua he­li­copters do well over 400 res­cue mis­sions a year and that would mean an­other he­li­copter would be needed any­way to ser­vice the ex­tra work­load.

‘‘Doesn’t it make more sense to lo­cate that ma­chine in Taupō ?’’

PHO­TOS: ROBERT STEVEN/STUFF

Taupo¯ Mayor David Tre­wavas and Na­tional MP Louise Up­ston lead the protest.

PHOTO: ROBERT STEVEN/STUFF

The protest march down Lake Ter­race was call­ing for the Min­istry of Health to re­think plans to aban­don fund­ing for Taupo¯ ’s Green­lea res­cue he­li­copter.

PHOTO: TA­MARA THORN/STUFF

Marchers cre­ated their own signs for the protest.

PHOTO: TA­MARA THORN/STUFF

The Taupo¯ and Re­poroa Lions Club joined the march.

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