Kerikeri's Christmas present to Kerikeri could turn out to be a lifesaver.
Just before Christmas a shiny new ambulance was delivered to the Bay of Islands town, entirely paid for by the proceeds from Kerikeri's St John op shop.
The Mercedes Sprinter, with a total price tag of almost $200,000, has all the latest bells and whistles and means the town now has three ambulances to call on.
The money was raised from goods donated by Kerikeri residents, which are then sold to other Kerikeri residents by a team of 70 op shop volunteers.
Kerikeri St John Area Committee chairwoman Ros Smith said it was the seventh ambulance purchased in the last 10 years, all funded by the op shop.
"So that's where people's money goes. It's local funding for local ambulances."
The new vehicle was equipped with a defibrillator, drop-leg stretcher and other front-line equipment. Having three ambulances would ensure better coverage in an area like the Mid North. Every time an ambulance had to take a patient to Whangarei Hospital it was out of the area for up to four hours.
Staffing the new ambulance was not a problem with four paid staff and about 20 volunteers to call on.
Kerikeri's St John op shop had a roster of 70 volunteers with an average age 65, manager Jen Smiles said. The oldest turned 90 in October; the youngest was nudging 40.
"Their dedication is fantastic. They're willing to muck in wherever it's needed," she said.
St John acting district operations manager Mark Going said the ambulance was a Christmas present to the people of Kerikeri, thanks to the efforts of the Kerikeri op shop volunteers. It was important to have a steady stream of new ambulances in Northland due to the high mileage they clocked up. New vehicles meant greater reliability and lower maintenance costs, he said.
The op shop, on Cobham Rd, is open 9.30am-4.30pm weekdays and 9.30am-1pm on Saturdays. St John also has a furniture shop, open 10am to noon on Wednesdays, next to the ambulance station on Kerikeri Rd.
-St John has also received $90,000 through the new Northland Regional Council emergency services fund but needs to raise another $80,000 to buy one more ambulance for Northland. Mr Going is encouraging Northlanders and Northland businesses to donate. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (09) 437 2199.