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 St John Flight Intensive Care Paramedics 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.


Paul Ahlers


David Keys

Deputy Chairman

Tim Davidson


Murray Broadbelt



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

This last year has been an extremely busy one for the Northland Rescue Helicopter team.

Our aircraft have continued to be in high demand with 905 missions and over 1100 people transported to/from hospitals around the north. We have even had several occasions over the last year where all three of our aircraft have been deployed on missions simultaneously. With a steady population growth in Northland and further centralisation of specialist health services, the need for a fast effective air ambulance service is more important than ever.

The rescue helicopter network in New Zealand is effectively provided by 11 independent trusts (like NEST) spread around the country. These trusts form a national collective called the Air Rescue Group (ARG) which meets regularly to share ideas and resources. The ARG members have a similar trust structure within their respective communities, but have different operating models with some members owning and operating their own helicopters, whilst others contract the services to commercial operators. Northland has owned its own helicopters for the last twenty years, and this has allowed us to direct all funds raised in the community to the helicopters, and to build up community assets worth close to $10M.

Like most other ambulance operators, the Trust 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 Northpower, Top Energy, Oxford Trust, and to the Northland Regional Council for its continued support in funding this valuable regional service.

The Ministry of Health announced earlier this year that it would be seeking tenders in 2018 for the majority of the air ambulance and rescue work. The ministry has invited tenders from the existing operators but has also sought tenders from international companies in Australia and further afield. NEST is working with the ministry and other interested parties in a co-design tender process, and we will be  using this opportunity to lobby government for a better funding model. We believe that central government should be providing guaranteed funding to cover the total cost of operations, and also providing assistance with the upgrade of an ageing national fleet of aircraft. This would lessen the burden being increasingly placed on local communities.

As part of a recent strategic planning exercise, the trust identified that our most important objective should be the upgrading of our aircraft. Our existing aircraft are extremely well maintained but the airframes are now getting on to 40 years old. 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.

The Sikorsky S76 has proved that it is fit for purpose, reliable and cost efficient to run considering its  class and performance. The helicopter has the size, range, and speed to handle our standard mission profiles, and we have developed considerable experience and technical capabilities around this aircraft. For this reason, the most cost effective and practical replacement would be a later model of the S76.

Earlier this year we became aware of some late model S76 helicopters that were available for sale overseas following the liquidation of an international company’s assets. The machines are relatively new and available at a price point which would make it viable for the trust to proceed with its upgrade programme. The trust is in the process of negotiating the purchase and/or lease of these machines, and if successful we will look to sell the existing helicopters and embark on a public fundraising campaign to fund the balance of the purchase price.

Over the last twelve months the trust has further developed our ambassador service, where a small team of dedicated volunteers engage with their local communities throughout Northland, in order to promote and support this vital service. On behalf of the trust board, I would like to extend my special thanks to these individuals who give up their own time to build and strengthen our ties with the communities we serve.

Most people in Northland have a loved one or someone they care about, that has been flown in the helicopter. The fantastic support provided by the people of Northland has enabled the service to constantly improve to a level where it is now a world class service that Northlanders should be extremely proud of.

On behalf of the board, I would 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. And of course, a special thanks to the people of Northland for their ongoing support.


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 2017.

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

Total Expenditure: $5,865,000

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

Total Revenue: $6,492,000

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