Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter has new lifesaving equipment thanks to a $300,000 sponsorship deal from Port of Tauranga and the community.
The sponsorship money has paid for a two-person 205kg rescue winch for the rescue helicopter.
Last night at the helicopter base, Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns demonstrated the winch training equipment with volunteer winch operator and St John Ambulance upskilled paramedic Bill McNeilly.
Mr McNeilly and Tauranga police Sergeant Craig Madden, a volunteer winch operator, have completed hours of training to become the first crew members in the Bay of Plenty qualified to operate the winch.
TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter pilot Liam Brettkelly said it was "great to have the Bay's two leading companies backing and supporting the rescue helicopter service".
The first phase of training was to be finished today and will ensure expert crews are operational for land-based rescue winch recoveries.
The state-of the-art winch allows for the extraction of patients from difficult to reach terrain, where previously the helicopter required a landing and preparation site for a long-line recovery.
"The winch provides us with a quicker and safer rescue mechanism," Mr Brettkelly said.
"Previously time was never on our side, with daylight fading and injuries occurring often at the end of the day."
When the sponsorship deal was announced in July last year, Mr Brettkelly said the permanent mounted winch would mean the helicopter could attend more rescues and extractions would be quicker and safer.
Until now, helicopters from Auckland or Taupo, with rescue winch systems, have helped at local rescues, when needed.