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-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 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, David Keys

2019 was another big year for NEST.

At the start of the year, we formed a joint venture with Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) to successfully bid for a 3 year air ambulance contract in the northern region. The northern region extends from North Cape all the way down to the Coromandel. The new joint venture entity is Northern Rescue Helicopter Ltd (NRHL), and effectively brings the combined operations of both NEST and ARHT together to provide services for the entire northern region. The contract was awarded to NRHL by the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO), a division of the Ministry of Health.

Considerable work has been done and is still being done bedding down the new joint venture and coordinating the operating activities of the two trusts and the JV’s relationship with NASO.

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. We expect to make further skill based director appointments in early 2020.

NRHL is now in the process of reviewing the resource requirements under the contract and preparing to assume the joint operating activities under the NRHL banner.

Following the retirement of our former CEO Peter Turnbull, Paul Ahlers stepped in as CEO – a role he has fulfilled for the last 9 months. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter for his many years of valuable service, and of course for helping to shape the rescue helicopter service we have in Northland today. I also need 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.

The financial results for NEST for the year ended 31 March 2019 showed the Trust generated an operating surplus of $434K. This surplus has been used to contribute towards the fitout cost of the new Whangarei based helicopters.
The Total Assets for the Trust as at 31 March 2019 increased from the prior year to $17M with Net Liabilities totalling $6.1M leaving a Net Equity of $10.8M. During the last financial year, the Trust purchased one Sikorsky S76C++ helicopter, and leased another.

Our two new Sikorsky S-76-C++ helicopters have settled into their work. We have retained a third older A model aircraft as a backup aircraft. In the year ended 31st March 2019 we flew a total of 1601 hours which was 249 hours more than the previous year.

Like most other ambulance operators, NEST and NRHL receives only partial funding from central government which cover approximately 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 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.


For the year ending 31 March 2019.

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

Total Expenditure: $7,878,000

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

Total Revenue: $8,313,000

  • Helicopter Hire
  • NRC Grant
  • Electricity Sponsors
  • Donations (including public appeal)
  • Grants received
  • Bequests/Other