Emergency calls and rescues can sometimes be a weighty issue for St John ambulance staff.

Most injuries to St John staff occur when they are loading patients in and out of ambulances.

But thanks to a $21,650 donation from the Rural Contractors New Zealand all the heavy lifting will be reduced to the push of a button.

The significant donation, handed over Wednesday, will go part-way to paying for the installation of a battery-powered powerlift stretcher.


St John Northland operations manager Tony Devanney said a new ambulance was set to roll in Northland in November and it would be kitted out with the new, easy-to-operate stretcher. It will be one of the first operating in New Zealand.

Mr Devanney said the stretcher would take the heavy lifting out of loading and unloading patients.

It also means an increase in the weight that can be lifted. On the old-style stretchers, the maximum weight is 220 kilograms but with the new one it increases to 320kg.

"This equipment increases staff safety when lifting and handling patients," Mr Devanney said.

Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) chief executive Roger Parton said as part of the organisation's annual conference, which was held in Waitangi in June, a charity auction was held with the proceeds going to St John in the local area.

"Working in a rural environment there are hazards and operating machinery has its hazards and sometimes there are accidents," Mr Parton said.

While the accident rate with rural contractors was relatively low, most fatalities involved stock and all terrain vehicles, knowing St John was available to those in the rural sector was excellent.

RCNZ national president Steve Levet said rural contractors had a great affinity for the work of St John around the country and it was a valuable charity playing a vital role in rural New Zealand.