Maui Discussion

Ask the Mayor: Who Pays for Visitor Rescues?

July 24, 2017, 7:54 AM HST
* Updated July 24, 8:17 AM
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Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff.

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at [email protected], 270-7855 or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

Dear Mayor,

Q: We often read of people (frequently, visitors to Maui) being rescued after getting stranded in remote locations, injuring themselves on hikes or becoming unresponsive in the ocean. This requires a significant deployment of first responders and their equipment, including, sometimes, helicopters. Who pays for these rescues—Maui resident taxpayers or the parties being rescued?


A: In short, the taxpayers do. However, regardless of who is being rescued, visitor or local, the cost for retaining the use of the helicopters is high. For this fiscal year, the county pays a flat fee of $64,114 per month for access to the helicopters, plus an hourly rate of $509 for the first helicopter and $1,200 an hour for any additional helicopters.


These costs will increase somewhat over the next three subsequent years according to the contract with Windward Aviation.

Keep in mind the helicopters are also used to fight fires and conduct emergency-related surveys.

Bottom line, we ask everyone to stay off private property and out of dangerous or remote areas—especially those places where people have no business going, even though they are highlighted in some guidebooks.


It’s important for visitors to learn how to enjoy their vacation safely, whether on land or in the ocean.

Help share the brochure and safety video available online at Mahalo.

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