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Westpac NZ is donating an extra $1 million to support New Zealand’s rescue helicopters, which are facing a serious fundraising shortfall due to the impacts of COVID-19.

In addition to Westpac NZ’s usual sponsorship and annual fundraising campaign, the Life Flight Trust, operators of the Wellington Westpac Rescue Helicopter, will receive $160,000.

Westpac NZ Chief Executive David McLean says the pandemic has highlighted the immense importance of New Zealand’s frontline health services and the need to support them.

“Even while we’re at home under Level-4 lockdown, our rescue choppers are out doing lifesaving work, whether it’s attending a farm accident or a childbirth emergency,” Mr McLean says.

“They’re also performing urgent hospital transfers, and are ready to help as part of the country’s COVID-19 response.

Mr McLean says the cancellation of fundraising events nationwide, plus financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19, have left the rescue helicopter trusts desperately short of critical funds.

Westpac has been sponsoring rescue helicopters in New Zealand for nearly 40 years and Life Flight Trust CEO Mark Johnston says this very generous extra donation will help the trusts deal with the added costs of keeping their frontline workers safe.

“We’re facing increased requirements around personal protective equipment (PPE) and aircraft decontamination, as well as keeping our crews as safe as we can in their bubble at our Air Rescue Centre base,” Mr Johnston says.

“We also have to be ready to carry out more hospital transfers if the COVID-19 situation worsens, so it’s an extremely busy time.

We know the community is reeling from the effects of COVID-19, which is why we’re especially grateful to Westpac, and anyone able to make even a small donation, to help us keep this vital service in the air.”

With Westpac NZ’s annual Chopper Appeal month just around the corner in May, Mr McLean urged Kiwis who have given in the past to continue to support their local rescue helicopter trust if they’re in a position to do so.

Those wishing to make a donation to their local rescue helicopter can do so at www.chopperappeal.co.nz or direct at www.lifeflight.org.nz/donate.