About Us

Helicopter Emergency Medical Services New Zealand Limited (HEMS) is the entity that represents the combined skills, experience, capability and knowledge of some of the most able and experienced helicopter air ambulance operators in New Zealand, GCH Aviation (GCH) and Helicopters Otago (HeliOtago) with further support from Southern Lakes Helicopters.

GCH Aviation and HeliOtago are New Zealand owned companies with a proud history of serving the New Zealand air ambulance and air rescue service. They are significant providers of fixed wing and helicopter-based commercial aviation services, as well as being two of the longest-term providers of air ambulance services in New Zealand. Operating across two of the largest single-provider air rescue regions and coastal marine territories.

GCH and HeliOtago are the primary contractors to HEMS for provision of its air ambulance services to the Ministry of Health, ACC and the various DHBs of the Southern region. They each work directly with St John in ensuring (through dedicated selection, development and training) the clinical paramedic response to each mission is of the highest standard. Their shared philosophy is to work in partnership with service purchasers and suppliers to provide the best possible outcomes for patients. The benefits of engaging two of the largest commercial helicopter fleet operators in New Zealand include access to new technology, experience of crew, currency of crew, aircraft maintenance performance, in-house aircraft spares store, and a reputation for operational efficiency and safety. They are two of New Zealand’s most experienced air ambulance operators delivering a patient-centred focus to the service, they have each brought the highest standard of service to patients and their South Island communities for decades.

HEMS’ contractors have an impeccable record of delivering quality and safe air ambulance services over three decades: GCH awarded the Aviation Industry Association Diamond Safety award for 30 continuous years of “no injury to self or others” flying operations; HeliOtago receiving recognition for its outstanding contribution to safety standards of the air industry from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. HEMS aspires to build upon this legacy to create a reputation as a leader in providing safe and quality air ambulance services, delivering the right treatment at the right time, in the right place.

The communities of the South Island have for many years committed substantial levels of financial support to the air ambulance service provided by GCH and HeliOtago. The people of the region’s cities, towns, rural and coastal villages are distinctly aware of the role of the rescue helicopter in bringing an essential medical service to people throughout the south; over time that awareness has been endorsed through financial support to the service through the following charitable Trusts:

Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust

Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust

Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust

Lakes District Air Rescue Trust

HEMS recognises the vital work undertaken by each of those Trusts and expresses gratitude for their ongoing support.