17 Apr 2020

Westpac NZ is donating an extra $1 million to support New Zealand’s rescue helicopters, which are facing a serious fundraising shortfall due to the impacts of COVID-19.

In addition to Westpac NZ’s usual sponsorship and annual fundraising campaign, each of the four metro trusts (Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury) will receive a $160,000 donation, with the other 11 regional trusts receiving just over $30,000 each.

Westpac NZ Chief Executive David McLean says the pandemic has highlighted the immense importance of New Zealand’s frontline health services and the need to support them.

“Even while we’re at home under Level-4 lockdown, our rescue choppers are out doing lifesaving work, whether it’s attending a farm accident or a childbirth emergency,” Mr McLean says.

“They’re also performing urgent hospital transfers, and are ready to help as part of the country’s COVID-19 response.”

Mr McLean says the cancellation of fundraising events nationwide, plus financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19, have left the rescue helicopter trusts desperately short of critical funds.

Westpac has been sponsoring rescue helicopters in New Zealand for nearly 40 years and Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust Chairman Simon Tompkins says its extra donation could not have come at a better time for the trust.

“We’re facing a dramatic reduction in our fundraising due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and Westpac’s donation provides us with certainty that this key component in our fundraising programme is secured,” Mr Tompkins says.

“We’re also facing increased costs around personal protective equipment and decontamination of our aircraft, to keep our staff safe and able to continue our life-saving service.”

Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust CEO Christine Prince has thanked the community for its “amazing” support, at a time when many people are reeling from the effects of COVID-19.

“We are especially grateful to Westpac and anyone able to make even a small donation to keep this vital service in the air. It’s a difficult time but life goes on and so we need to be there in the case of any emergency,” Ms Prince says.

With Westpac NZ’s annual Chopper Appeal month just around the corner in May, Mr McLean urged Kiwis who have given in the past to continue to support their local rescue helicopter trust if they’re in a position to do so.
Those wishing to make a donation to their local rescue helicopter can do so on the Chopper Appeal website

Editor’s note: There are 15 rescue helicopter trusts nationwide: Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty coastal region (TECT Rescue Helicopter), Waikato-King Country-Coromandel (Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter), Lakes and Central Plateau region (Greenlea Rescue Helicopter), Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Taranaki, Manawatu-Whanganui (Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter), Wellington-Marlborough, Nelson-Marlborough, Canterbury, West Coast, Otago, and Lakes District.