James Rolleston, one of the New Zealand‘s most highly-regarded actors, known for the films Boy and The Dark Horse, is heartbroken the rescue helicopter that was on hand to save his life will no longer be operational.
James Rolleston, who received life-saving assistance from Rotorua Air ambulance after a terrible car accident two years ago during which he suffered critical injuries, has expressed his dismay that the New Zealand Ministry of Health scrapped the emergency service last week.
On 26 July 2016, Rolleston was driving with close friend and rugby league player Kaleb Maxwell, when the car they were driving struck the Otara bridge in Opotiki. Rolleston was seriously injured with damage to his lower body and brain. In November 2016, he made his first public appearance, presenting the Supreme Award at the Attitude Awards and spoke about his ongoing recovery, saying he needed rehabilitation to learn how to walk, speak, and use basic motor skills again.
“The rescue helicopters they got there on time, I didn’t have a lot of time left and they got there,” Rolleston says.
A new central region service will begin operating next month with the region covered by helicopters in Taupō, Tauranga and Hamilton.
The Government will invest $82.9 million over four years into the new services, however, locals are concerned about the changes. Local attorney Jonathan Temm says “residents have raised funds for more than three decades to keep the service up and running.”
“To have it taken away from people out of Wellington is very disappointing,” “My family and many families in Rotorua have had the benefit of the rescue helicopter. Several years ago, there was a very significant accident – a number of families were affected by it.”
Health Minister David Clark says the new service, which covers Rotorua from Taupō, Tauranga and Hamilton, will be more reliable.
“The existing fleet is 29 years old on average,” he says. “We need to upgrade the fleet and we need to shift all of the helicopters to twin-engine, so people can be treated in the back of them.”
The helicopter flight from Rotorua to Taupō will take fourteen minutes. Local MP Todd McClay believes that Clark is being disingenuous, and that lives are at stake.
“Get out from under your desk in Wellington and come and talk to local people,” he says.
James Rolleston couldn’t agree more. He is certain the Rotorua service saved his life and gave him the best possible chance at a full recovery.
“It’s sad that their help isn’t going to be available to the people back home in the Bay of Plenty area, they need that,” he says.
Clark says that an oversight group will evaluate the new service but insists that the changes are a good thing.