By Scott Simpson, National Party MP for Coromandel.
I’m lucky to represent a beautiful part of New Zealand and one of New Zealand’s number one holiday destinations in the beautiful Coromandel. We’ve got the best beaches, great people and a bustling local tourism operation. That’s why it is so baffling that the Labour Government has made the decision to remove Coromandel’s rescue helicopter services over the current holiday season, endangering locals and visitors who will be at real risk should accidents occur.
This is a huge slap in the face for locals and the hundreds of thousands of visitors here over the summer peak. The Coromandel population swells to 500,000 over the peak summer period and a locally based helicopter service is a necessity to ensure a safe environment.
We’ve been completely let down by the Labour Government.
We’ve been completely let down by the Labour Government who promised there would be no reduction to rescue helicopter services for the Coromandel Peninsula, but here we are this summer without a much needed machine and crew based in Whitianga.
Stephan Bosman has started a petition urging the Government to reinstate the rescue helicopter based in Whitianga for summer and holiday periods at the very least. Over 10,000 people have signed the petition as of last week and I expect this number to grow considerably.
The local community has worked hard to ensure this service and fundraised $1 million for a purpose build facility for the helicopter with a house for four crew members that was competed in 2012. For all of this fundraising to be for nothing as the Government takes the service away is insulting and potentially life threatening.
Many locals have spoken of the incidents and times where the helicopter has saved lives, and with busy roads like SH2 and lots of beaches filled with swimmers, there is a risk of things going wrong and accidents occurring. Relying on a helicopter to come from as far away as Tauranga, Hamilton or Auckland only increases this risk and is unnecessary when the facilities to hold a Helicopter in Whitianga are sitting there unused.
The petition will remain open until the end of April, at which time I will present it to Parliament. I encourage you to head to Parliament’s website and sign the petition here. Coromandel deserves better than this and should not be put at risk due to this Government’s carelessness. Coromandel needs this rescue helicopter.
Scott Simpson is the National Party MP for Coromandel.