"People are in a state of panic and distress but as soon as they see you come through the door with your uniform on and a bag, they are confident you can deal with the situation."

These words, spoken by Katikati St John Ambulance driver Victor Holloway in Ruth Keber's story on page six today will ring true for anyone who has ever been in an emergency situation.

The spate of recent drownings and near drownings in the Bay made me reflect on the crucial life or death role our emergency service teams play.

But Victor Holloway is not a paid member of the crew - he is a volunteer of three years.


Our rural Bay communities desperately need more volunteers like him, and are short of some 20 to adequately attend emergencies, reports Keber.

While the service to the community that Holloway and others provide is highly laudable, to me it seems preposterous that volunteers are part of the essential crew and not an extra.

St John is only 80 per cent funded by the Ministry of Health, ACC and district health boards.

The charity has to find the rest.

It is hard to imagine a world where a service such as St John did not exist.

Many people would die before they even reached hospital. Like many parents, I have been grateful for the speed and professionalism of St John in whose hands we put our children's lives and our own. Imagine if you called and no one came.

This paper has previously opined that the government should fully fund St John. I agree. In my view, it is wrong the government does not fully fund emergency services such as St John - and indeed others like the rescue helicopter, volunteer fire people and our amazing lifeguard teams.

They all do a terrific job but, even that aside, the service they provide is not a nice-to-have but a must-have, and in the allocation of healthcare spend, they should take priority.

In the meantime, thank you to the likes of Mr Holloway and many other volunteers across the Bay.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, see page 6 to find out how. Our rural communities need you and the difference you can make to someone's life is priceless. Let's hope one day you will get paid in dollars as well as in gratitude.