Taranaki's rescue helicopter faces financial hurdles to start 2017
Taranaki businesses and residents are being encouraged to become part of a life saving service.
The region's rescue helicopter is facing financial challenges to start 2017 but its chairman, Bryce Barnett, is determined it will remain airborne.
The Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter Trust has taken a double financial blow with uncertainty around its future funding from the TET while facing a bill of $250,000 to repair its chopper.
In September a major funder of the service, the Taranaki Electricity Trust, announced it would no longer help organisations based in New Plymouth or Hawera.
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Since October the trust, which flew 160 rescue missions in 2016, has been using a hired helicopter after corrosion was discovered in the cladding around the transmission of its Augusta 109 Power.
Manager Andy Cronin said anyone who contributed either money or their time to the service became part of the organisation.
"If you have made a donation whether it is $5 or $5000 you are also part of our story, part of our family," Cronin said.
"You are part of what enables us to make that difference in people's lives."
Cronin said a sad but memorable job in 2016 involved the death of Frenchman Victor Roucher, 25, who died after falling near the summit of Mt Taranaki in June.
Roucher's climbing companion, from Wellington, later visited the service and made a donation after arranging for collection boxes to be put in Wellington bars.
"For his friends to go and raise money and support us, it's amazing for us, it's humbling I guess for us, because we provide the best possible service we can," Cronin said.
"It was sad for his family, his friends and everyone who's part of the service but as a consequence they are now part of our family and our story."
Cronin said winching three climbers off the mountain in September was another unforgettable experience.
"That was significant because it was a night rescue on the mountain using the winch in challenging conditions."
The crew battled against falling ice, steep slopes and darkness to pull the trio to safety but Cronin said service's dedicated volunteers always took their own safety into consideration.
"Everyone has families to go home to, I've got a couple of small humans and a wife that I'm quite fond of going home to."
Barnett said the unexpected rust repairs and uncertainty about future funding from the TET would bring challenges in 2017.
"It puts us in a position where we not only need the TET's ongoing support but we need a big commitment from the public in 2017 to maintain that level of service," Barnett said.
The repairs were a big set back for the free service which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, carrying out rescue missions in some of the region's most rural and isolated areas, he said.
"That's part of us working in a very harsh conditions over salt water and iron sand.
"The blades just push it into places where no matter how much you clean it or hose it down you can't get to it."
The trust has been working on strategies to get Taranaki businesses and the public aboard, Barnett, who is credited with keeping the helicopter flying after financial difficulties put its future in doubt in 2012, said.
"We have to be careful not to spend $2 to get $1 support, we need to get the best dollar return for the time and money we spend.
"I'm not going to let the people of Taranaki down."
He also remained positive about reaching an agreement with the TET because its funding support was vital for the service.