Rescue efforts across the entire South Island got a boost today with the unveiling of two new air ambulance helicopters.
Based in Christchurch and Dunedin, the modern machines are bigger and loaded with life-saving technology.
Costing $15 million, the state-of-the-art pair of helicopters mean paramedics will be better able to provide vital patient care.
"The sooner we can get patients who are in serious or critical condition into specialist care in hospital the better. And technology we have now available from this machine certainly caters for that," said paramedic Chris Harrison.
Mr Harrison said the helicopter has a lot more space and the "greatest leap forward" is an equipment rack.
"We are able to simultaneously look at patients and gauge their condition based on the vital sign monitor, what the ventilator is doing and the medications we are administering. We can also change the lights so that we can still see the patient at nighttime without blinding the pilot, as it's night vision goggle-sensitive lighting," he said.
Today's launch comes nearly a year after Health Minister David Clark announced plans to enhance air ambulance services across the entire South Island.
Changes have included dedicated cover in Queenstown and a larger helicopter for Greymouth.
The Christchurch service alone attends around 700 callouts per year, covering terrain from ocean to alps.
"We are able to potentially rescue more persons if there's a party on a mountain that needed to be winch rescued, where previously weight limits may have meant that we could have only picked so many up on the one trip," Mr Harrison said.
And new technology, including autopilot systems, will enable missions to be flown safely in conditions previously deemed too dangerous.
The two new helicopters will be in service from tomorrow.