Reserve status change a chance for medivac access

Stewart Island/Rakiura. Photo: Filevv

CHANGING part of Traill Park at Stewart Island from a recreation reserve to a local purpose reserve will mean a helipad can be built at the site allowing for medivacs in all weathers.

In a report tabled at yesterday’s Southland District Council meeting, property adviser Theresa Cavanagh says there were 60 medivac flights from Stewart Island in the past year.

While most are made by fixed-wing aircraft from the Ryan’s Creek air strip, the use of a plane is determined by daylight hours, weather, medical staff available and condition of the patient.

Some helicopter medivacs are already taking place at Traill Park which is not a helipad and cannot be used in all weather.

“Helicopters land on the grass and emergency services vehicles drive on to the reserve,” the report states.

“Access can be difficult for vehicles, particularly in wet conditions and can put fragile patients at risk. Therefore, a hardstand area is required.”

The report says Oban has an opportunity to link into the instrument flight rules (IFR) navigation system which enables helicopters to fly in the dark and in adverse weather conditions.

The system requires a lit helipad with a windsock but, in order for the helipad to be constructed, the reserve status has to be changed.

“This reclassification will enable Future Rakiura Inc, the proposed owner-operator of the helipad, to enter into a lease agreement with the Southland District Council to construct and operate a helipad for emergency landings, subject to public notification,” the report states.

Helicopters Otago director Graeme Gale would co-ordinate a designated route to the site for the use of the IFR system.

Costs and funding for the helipad would be met by Future Rakiura Inc, through grants and fundraising.

Council voted unanimously to change the reserve designation at the meeting, Mayor Gary Tong saying, “I think it’s a fantastic project”.