1 Jun 2021

The Westpac Rescue Helicopters have been working overtime as historic floods ravage the Canterbury region.

Canterbury Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman, Corey Milnes, says their eight crewmen are working in split 12-hour shifts across two choppers.

The crew have been out on 13 missions since the floods started to hit on Saturday.

“We’re now responding to a lot of isolated areas because the main bridge separating Ashburton is closed due to flooding.

“We’ve been responding to farmers, medical transfers, trapped vehicles, car crashes and people trapped by flood waters,” he said.

On Monday, an alpaca rescue mission ended in six people being saved by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Farmer Ian Chamberlain of Okuku, west of Rangiora, saw an SOS call-out on Facebook to help rescue 34 alpacas on a neighbouring farm that were trapped on the other side of the creek.

“Six of us headed across and rounded up the alpacas and started bringing them back across the main creek, but it blew out in the storm,” he told Magic Talk Radio.

"We had taken the alpacas back to dry land, but we were then stuck.

“We got a signal that the Westpac Rescue Chopper was coming and took shelter in the hay shed.

“Within 10 or 15 minutes the chopper came and rescued us. The Westpac Rescue Helicopter did an amazing job, and we heard this morning through Facebook that the alpacas got rescued later,” he said.

The alpacas were winched to safety by a private helicopter later in the day.

Canterbury Air Rescue Trust CEO Christine Prince said it was at times like these that you truly appreciated the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

“With Ashburton and the areas further south cut off…it is essentially the only option for those directly suffering due to the flooding and for any medical emergency or accident.

“It is a life line to the region.”

Prince said it was ironic that the floods should strike just as the Westpac Chopper Appeal draws to a close.

“The service has been in the limelight as the community across New Zealand have dug deep to help, but an event like this truly demonstrates how important this service is.

On Tuesday the rainfall had eased off, but rescues continue as floodwaters remain.

The Westpac Chopper Appeal supports all New Zealand’s rescue helicopters, so they can continue their life saving work keeping Kiwis across the country safe. If you would like to support the Westpac Canterbury Rescue Helicopter, or any other rescue helicopter please donate at www.chopperappeal.co.nz/donate