Northland Emergency Services Trust

We are a charitable trust established to provide a dedicated emergency rescue helicopter service for the people of Northland. The Trust is supported by the generous contributions made by local sponsors, individuals, families, businesses and organisations.

A Board of Trustees governs NEST and oversees its strategic direction and management.


Paul Ahlers


Tim Davidson


Murray Broadbelt


Brent Eastwood


Pete Turnbull


Our team


In our hangar based in Whangarei city, is the team who help organise all our work behind the scenes. That includes everyone from those who manage our operations and accounts to the experts busy fixing our fleet.


NEST has two Sikorsky S-76 emergency rescue helicopters. We’re the only service in New Zealand using this model of emergency helicopters providing world-class capabilities and we have world-class pilots to fly them.


Our choppers are crewed by experienced pre-hospital emergency clinicians who provide medical care and treatment. They also serve as the winch operators on search and rescue operations.


Our engineers ensure that our helicopters are safe and in good condition.


The idea for the Northland Emergency Services Trust was conceived at a public meeting called at the request of the Auckland Surf Club in 1988.  The meeting discussed the idea of having a rescue helicopter in Northland for three months over the summer period. Joyce Ryan, who was Whangarei’s mayor at the time, asked those present if they thought the money that was being asked for, to run the service for three months, seemed fair.  After discussion, the St John contingent said: “We can do the same job for the same money, but for the whole year.” While costs exceeded those envisaged in 1988, NEST believes its service has far exceeded Northlanders’ expectations. It transported its first patient on Tuesday 15 November 1988.

The Bell Jet Ranger

When NEST began, its emergency helicopter was a Bell Jet Ranger – a basic single pilot, one engine and one patient rescue helicopter. It's the most popular helicopter ever built with over 6000 flying worldwide, and has one of the best safety records of any helicopter on the market.

Chairman's Report

2020 was another big year for NEST. It is fair to say that 2020 was defined by Covid-19 and the way in which this impacted everybody’s lives across the world. Here in New Zealand, our health services together planned and prepared early in the pandemic to contain the virus and lessen the impact this would have on our health services across the country. NEST remains actively involved in this process.

Our joint venture with Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) is now well established in running the Government contract to provide air ambulance services to the Northern Region. This region  extends from North Cape all the way down to the Coromandel. The new joint venture entity is called Northern Rescue Helicopter Ltd (NRHL), and effectively brings the combined operations of both NEST and ARHT together to provide services for the entire region. The contract was awarded to NRHL in 2019 by the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO), a division of the Ministry of Health.

NEST and ARHT retain full ownership of the assets, and each trust remains responsible for fundraising and community support in their respective areas. Considerable work has been done and is still being done bedding down the new joint venture and coordinating the operating activities and the JV’s relationship with NASO. Craig Gibbons has been appointed as CEO of NRHL and now has full management control of the joint venture. Craig is an experienced CEO with considerable aeromedical experience. The NRHL Board is up and running with the appointment of an independent chairman, Mr John Duncan along with Paul Ahlers from NEST and Simon Tompkins from ARHT. NRHL retains a skill-based board of directors.

I also want to thank Paul Ahlers for his huge efforts in keeping NEST operating efficiently but also in helping to set up NRHL and establishing the JV relationship with ARHT. Operationally in the 2020 financial year, NEST had 1,115 missions which is a record number. The audited financial results for NEST for the year ended 31 March 2020 showed a net operating surplus of $431K from gross revenue of $10M. The net assets (equity) position for the Trust sits at $11.3M.

Our two new Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopters have continued to perform well in their work. We have retained a third older A model aircraft as a backup aircraft. Like most other ambulance operators in New Zealand, NEST receives partial funding from central government which covers approximately 80% of our total operating costs. The balance is covered by the community through sponsorship and donations. We are extremely grateful for this support and in particular our thanks go to our key sponsors – Northland Regional Council, Northpower, Top Energy and the Oxford Trust. Without the support of our sponsors and the Northland public we would simply be unable to provide the service as it exists today.

On behalf of the board I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Board members, our dedicated operational, financial and administration staff, paramedics, hospital staff and other emergency workers who work tirelessly in support of Northland Rescue Helicopters.

David Keys

Following high standards of corporate governance

The Trustees of NEST acknowledge and support the need for the highest standards of corporate governance, practice and ethical conduct by all of our Trustees and employees of the Trust. A copy of relevant documents from our Governance Manual can be viewed below.

The Trust Structure
Corporate Governance Statement
Code of conduct

A copy of our last set of audited financial statements is available for viewing on the Charities Commission website.