DAVID ROSS BLACK – Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health

When retired company director and former businessman Ross Black first approached central government and ACC in 1996 to fund a rescue helicopter service for Otago he was told there was no money.

“There was almost an attitude in those days that helicopter retrieval was a luxury and it did not fit comfortably with public health provision.”

Twenty five years later there are four full-time Otago rescue helicopters with pilots and emergency paramedics on stand-by to attend any medical or accident emergency anywhere in the lower South Island, every day of the year and at any time of the day or night.

In 1997 Mr Black spearheaded a $3.5million fundraising drive for the dedicated rescue helicopter in the Otago area.

A year later the Trust carried out 100 missions.

By the time he retired from the Trust in 2019 it had transported more than 9500 patients to hospital, benefiting the Otago and Southland community across farm and workplace, sporting, and vehicle accidents, sea and land rescues, major medical events and transfers from smaller hospitals.

Mr Black was trustee and chairman of the Healthcare Otago Charitable Trust from 1999 to 2014, during which time he oversaw the implementation of an investment policy that built the trust’s funds to more than $17million and distributions to the community of more than $10million for equipment, training, research and community projects.

He said the greatest thing about his involvement with the trust was having a privileged insight into the service.

“I am intimately familiar with every aspect of this service, the amazing dedication of the crews and the paramedics who provide the service and I am just in awe of them.

“I have had some amazing jobs in my career but this is the one by far that means the most to me.”

He said he was delighted to be given the Queen’s Birthday honour for services to health but the award was as much for the other trustees and the trust itself.

Mr Black was a Director of Canterbury Health Boards from 1996 to 2001 and was also chairman of Otago DHB from 1998 to 2001.