St John volunteers in Northland have just had their busiest Christmas/New Year ever, with more than 1600 callouts over the four-week holiday period alone and an increase in all types of jobs.

The most notable increases were animal bites and attacks - from three callouts in 2014/15 to seven this festive season or a hike of 233 per cent - and chokings which registered an increase of 160 per cent or 13 jobs as compared with five in the 2014/15 holidays.

St John district operations' manager for Northland, Tony Devanney, said there has been an overall increase of 9 per cent or 133 more callouts recorded during the recent holiday period compared with that in 2014. He said their workload increased by 4 per cent each year, with some areas having up to a 10 per cent increase. Whangarei and the Bay of Islands recorded a significant increase in 2015.

"A lot of this work is a result of an increase in population for the coastal communities, which in turn creates demands on the ambulance service travelling to these areas numerous times. Resources were increased in the Mangawhai, Paihia and Russell communities to address this increase and this work and increase in resources all come at a financial cost."


He said New Year's Eve was particularly busy in the Paihia and Kaitaia areas with alcohol-fuelled incidents.

The Northland Electricity Services Trust, which runs rescue helicopters crewed by St John paramedics, saw an increase in callouts from 75 in November to 105 in December last year. Explaining an increase in chokings, Mr Devanney said they could come in many forms.

"It's mostly food. Kids taking in small items like marbles, coins, little toys which may be just partially lodged, or babies vomiting milk and parents thinking they are choking but they aren't. Probably one-third of the time it's not choking but regurgitation. Rest homes in some cases with things like sausage down the throat," he said.

Mr Devanney has called on Northlanders to join St John as volunteers. The organisation currently has 350 volunteers throughout the region but is always in need of more.

"They usually come and go and while bigger centres like Whangarei and Kaitaia has good numbers, other smaller and rural areas like Dargaville, Bream Bay, Paihia and Russell are always in need of half a dozen," he said.

Irrespective of whether someone was a paramedic or not, he said everybody should have basic first aid knowledge because it would come in handy, especially in areas where ambulances were not readily available.