Media release

Media Release: Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust reports to ORC

Wednesday 25 October 2023

The Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Service responded with critical care for 1,866 patients across the lower South Island in the year to 30 June, a 16% increase in the previous year.

The Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust presented its 2022-23 annual report to an Otago Regional Council (ORC) meeting today.

The Annual Report was presented by Stephen Woodhead, Trustee of the Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust, and Graeme Gale, Managing Director Helicopters Otago Ltd that operates the Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Service.

The report noted that the Trust has responded to a request to provide increased annual community funding of the service, in its role as co-funders with the Crown.

Trustee Stephen Woodhead said, “we have an annual funding target of $800,000 pa (plus $400,000 pa contributed by Lakes District Air Rescue Trust) and we consider requests for funding of innovations beyond that level”.

“We are hugely grateful for the generous donations and sponsorship from organisations, community groups, and individuals across the region. This year, we have welcomed Landpower Group Ltd, which owns the CLAAS Harvest Centre network, as our cornerstone Platinum Sponsor, joining others in our family of sponsors.”

“That support is vital in enabling us to support the teams to bring vital life-saving care to patients every day and night of the year,” he said.

ORC is a major funder of the Trust, donating $350,000 annually.

ORC Chair Gretchen Robertson said the report reflected the community’s significant and growing reliance on the service that is delivered across the large and geographically challenging area in the lower South Island.

“ORC is delighted to support this critical service and is grateful to the teams of pilots and paramedics who are on call 24/7, 365 days of the year to respond to patients across the region.”

“We all rely on the world-class service that is delivered in our region, and we thank the Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust for its work supporting that service,” Cr Robertson said.

The presentation went on to highlight the significant development of new Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) routes across the region in the past five years, now providing connections through all the main valleys in Otago and Southland, enabling missions to be completed where poor visibility would other preclude flying.

“This is really game changing and enables us to get to critically sick patients in poor weather conditions” said Graeme Gale, Managing Director Helicopters Otago Ltd.

To view the Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust’s 2023 Annual Report, visit