Chopper's return boost for region

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 08:09 19/10/2012

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Emergency services on the Coromandel peninsula will be bolstered this Labour Weekend with Auckland's Westpac Rescue Helicopter returning to Whitianga.

But plans to house the crew and chopper in new, purpose-built facilities have been scuttled by bad weather which has put the $600,000 project behind schedule.

Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust chairman Walter Russell said the new facilities were on track to open by Christmas, when the helicopter would be based in Whitianga fulltime during the summer holidays.

"Flooring for the accommodation block is down and the frames are up and the hangar is expected to be assembled over the next couple of weeks," he said.

Mr Russell said funding was filtering in slowly for the costly project but he urged the region to dig deep in support.

"This isn't just about Whitianga," he said. "The helicopter is here to service the entire region and therefore it is appropriate that funding is found throughout the area."

The Auckland-based helicopter has already completed 119 missions in the Coromandel region this year - 11 more than in the same period in 2011.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust chief executive Bob Parkinson said demand was increasing for rescue helicopter services in the region, with a rapidly growing population of both permanent residents and holiday-makers.

"Our missions to the Coromandel and Thames region have increased by 85 per cent in the last four years and there are more than 200 rescue missions per year to the area by air rescue services," he said.

Donations to the Whitianga Hangar project can be made at any Westpac branch to the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust Hangar Appeal, a/c No: 03-1578-0116338-01.

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- Waikato Times

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