As a result of contractual changes, rescue helicopter services across New Zealand have set targets to increase staff numbers, and service staff for Canterbury-based Christchurch Westpac Helicopter are working hard to raise the money needed for staff training.
“Fifteen years ago, we were doing about 300 jobs a year, and now we’re doing in excess of 700,” Crew Training Manager Helicopter Mike McLintock said.
With such a drastic increase in numbers, it’s unsurprising that the service now requires two helicopters, but as a result the crew has had to double staff numbers from 18 members to 40.
Staff training costs around NZ$25,000 per person annually, so the service now aims to raise $1 million during the annual Westpac Chopper Appeal to meet the requirements of the new contract.
Tom Hyland, Flight Paramedic for the service, added: “For us, we just see it more as a job, but for the people, it really makes a difference for them when we go and get them in the bush or out at sea. It’s really memorable for them.”