The Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) is 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. All NEST trustees are Northlanders. We know about Northland’s unsealed roads, our changeable weather and the fact that our people live over a wide-spread area that’s often difficult to access quickly by road. We’re also aware of the increased risk of death and serious injury caused when medical treatment is delayed – all of which makes Northland’s Rescue Helicopter service so essential.



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 three Sikorsky S-76A 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 qualified St John paramedic crew who are experienced pre-hospital emergency clinicians and 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.


David Keys


Tim Davidson


Murray Broadbelt


Brent Eastwood


Paul Ahlers



We are proudly supported by a number of sponsors – thanks for all your help!

NEST would also like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the people of Northland, without whose ongoing support we would be unable to maintain this valuable service. Considering becoming a sponsor? Just click on the link to register your interest.



Saving lives since 1988

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, and has since carried more than 16,000 in 25 years to safety.

In 1988, when NEST began, its emergency helicopter was a Bell Jet Ranger – which is a basic single pilot, one engine and one patient rescue helicopter.  The Bell Jet Ranger is the most popular helicopter ever built with over 6000 flying worldwide.  It also has one of the best safety records of any helicopter on the market, which made it the perfect choice for NEST when we started.

In 1991, the Bell Jet Ranger was replaced with a more powerful Eurocopter Squirrel emergency helicopter and in 1994 the Squirrel was replaced with a twin-engine Eurocopter BK117. In 1997, the first Sikorsky S-76 emergency helicopter joined our fleet and today we can rely on our three Sikorsky helicopters to service the needs of Northland.

When the people of Northland decided to set up a rescue helicopter service back in 1988, they aimed to provide one that was wholly community-owned and supported. NEST has achieved this and aims to retain its foundations within the community it serves.  It also intends to continue to provide the people of Northland with an excellent, safe, effective and efficient service, and will do so by maintaining its present course – one of providing first class flight crews aboard top class aircraft.



The latest report from Chairman, Paul Ahlers

2018 has been a particularly busy year for NEST as we celebrate 30 years of operations in Northland.

In addition to flying a record number of rescue missions, we have successfully completed the purchase/lease of two new helicopters, received the supreme award at the Westpac Business Excellence Awards, and we have been selected as the preferred tenderer for the NASO contract to provide air ambulance services in the northern region.

The upgrade of our existing aircraft was identified as the most significant objective during our long term strategic planning. Our existing aircraft are extremely well maintained, but the airframes are now getting on to 40 years old. In 2016, the trust board decided that we should embark on a program to upgrade to more modern aircraft in order to take the next steps in technology and innovation.

There has been a tremendous amount of work done on locating suitable aircraft on the international market, negotiating the terms, getting the aircraft to NZ, and finally preparing them for service. The NEST board of trustees and our senior management team deserve special acknowledgement for the countless hours spent on the negotiations and logistics for this project.

In July 2018, we welcomed the arrival of the two new Sikorsky S-76 C++ helicopters from Canada. These machines are the same make as our existing A models, but they are newer aircraft powered by bigger engines with more advanced avionics. This will mean less maintenance and down-time for NEST, as well as giving us the added benefits of safety and reliability. The existing helicopters will be retired and sold once the new machines have passed flight testing and are available for active service early 2019.

In late March 2018, the Ministry of Health and ACC (via NASO) released a tender for all rescue helicopter work in New Zealand including any inter-hospital transfers. The new contracting framework involved a reduction from the 11 existing regions across New Zealand, to only three regions – Northern, Central & Southern. The Northern region encompasses both Northland and Auckland down to Coromandel, and it was clear that NASO was seeking only one experienced provider for the whole region.

The NEST trustees considered the various options available in terms of a conforming tender, and we concluded that the most effective bid would be a joint venture with our counterparts at the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT). We already have a good working relationship with ARHT, and we currently provide each other with backup services. It was important that we came up with a solution which would retain a rescue helicopter service in Northland.

The JV bid submitted by NEST and ARHT has now been selected by NASO as the preferred tender, and we are working through some outstanding contractual issues with NASO with a view to finalizing the contract on or before 31 March 2019. If and when this contract is finalized, it is envisaged that the two trusts will amalgamate their operating activities.

Like most other ambulance operators, NEST receives only partial funding from central Government which covers approx. 75% 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 dedicated staff, paramedics, hospital staff, and other emergency workers who work tirelessly in support of the Northland Rescue Helicopter

Most people in Northland have a loved one or someone they care about, that has been flown in the rescue helicopter. In many cases this flight has made a significant difference to the lives of both the patient and their loved ones. And that is what we are here for.


Paul Ahlers


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.


For the year ending 31 March 2018.

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

Total Expenditure: $6,170,000

  • Repairs and Maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Depreciation
  • Direct Wages
  • Other Direct Costs
  • Administration
  • Fuel Costs

Total Revenue: $6,850,000

  • Helicopter Hire
  • NRC Grant
  • Electricity Sponsors
  • Donations (including public appeal)
  • Oxford Sports Trust
  • Bequests/Other
  • Bequests/ Other