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



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.  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.

The latest report from Chairman, Paul Ahlers

As the world emerges from the Covid pandemic, we can reflect on a particularly busy period for the Northland Rescue Helicopter.

The pandemic presented some unique challenges for our operation, as we were faced with the job of providing continuity of service whilst ensuring the safety of our passengers and crew. Through the strong leadership of our management team, the dedication of our people, and a little Kiwi innovation along the way, we were able to achieve over 95% availability throughout this period.

Over the course of the last twelve months, NEST has migrated the operational activity of our aircraft into our joint venture with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT). The joint venture entity is Northern Rescue Helicopter Ltd (NRHL), and is owned 50/50 between NEST & ARHT. The NRHL Board consists of representation from both trusts, and skill based appointments for the remaining directors.

The unification of operations into NRHL has enabled us to provide an integrated seamless service across the upper North Island, drawing on the strengths of both organisations whilst still retaining a strong sense of community involvement. NRHL has its own air operators certificate, and now employs all of the operational staff including its own paramedics.

The Government contract for air ambulance services is controlled by the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO) working on behalf of the combined agencies of ACC and Health New Zealand (Te Whatu Ora). The existing contract for the northern region of New Zealand is held by NRHL and was due to expire 31 October 2022. I am pleased to report that this contract has now been renewed by NASO for a further four years to 2026, with further renewal extensions available to 2028. This has been made possible by the extremely hard work from NEST & NRHL chief executive, Craig Gibbons and his extended leadership team.

Like most other ambulance operators, we receive partial funding from central government which covers 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 continued 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.

The annual fundraising appeal runs from September to December every year, and this is an opportunity for the community to get behind their rescue helicopter and help us to not only run the service, but to lift and improve the service. A good example of this is the retirement this year of the last A model Sikorsky S76 helicopters. IAL or “Lima” as she was affectionately known, was retired on 25th October 2022, and is to be replaced by another later model C++ helicopter which will cost approx. USD$2.5M.

The rescue of the crew and passengers from the charter vessel “Enchanter” in March 2022 featured on a TV documentary which was aired recently. The documentary highlighted the importance of the rescue helicopter service in Northland.

In other news, NEST has attracted attention over the expiry of the current lease of our base at Kensington Park in 2023, and the proposed relocation of the base to Whangarei Airport. The airport location was shown to be the best alternative base location due to its aviation compliance and proximity to Whangarei Hospital. Residents immediately surrounding the airport have protested against the proposed relocation and have recently initiated legal proceedings against NEST and Whangarei District Council to halt the move. We will continue to work with Council and the local community to find the best place for our new base.

The draft financial results for NEST for the year ended 30 June 2022, show the Trust generated an operating surplus of $809K. This surplus has been used to fitout the new helicopters and fund the purchase of some new medical equipment. Our Net Equity is $14.5M.

On behalf of the board I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow Board members, our dedicated Ops team, engineering, administration staff, hospital staff and other emergency workers who all work tirelessly in support of your rescue helicopter service.


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.

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.