The Ministry of Health and ACC have announced that they are in the final stages of agreeing a three year contract with a joint venture between the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) and the Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST). A contract has not yet been signed but the parties are close to reaching agreement on the critical elements. The contract relates to a tender released by the Ministry (via the National Ambulance Sector Office) earlier this year to provide air ambulance services, including inter hospital transfers. Under the new contracting framework, there will be three regions across New Zealand – northern, central and southern. The northern region will comprise of Northland and Auckland. Under the joint venture proposal put forward by ARHT and NEST, the combined service will continue to use its existing bases in Whangarei, Auckland and Whitianga. There will continue to be a 24/7 service with upgraded aircraft and systems put in place to provide the very best level of patient care across the wider region. It is hoped that a formal announcement on the signing of the contract for the northern region can be made before the end of October, and that the new amalgamated service will be up and running before the end of March next year.