Emergency responders are calling for the return of a lifesaving defibrillator stolen from a popular walking loop in downtown Whangārei.
St John Mid North territory manager Wally Mitchell said the theft had removed a key piece of lifesaving equipment from an area popular with walkers and campervans.
"It is deplorable to discover the automated external defibrillator (AED) at Te Matau a Pohe bridge has been stolen from its post at Bascule Carpark," he said.
"Stealing an AED is taking away a lifesaving piece of equipment which is only useful in a cardiac arrest emergency, therefore we urge anyone who knows anything about its disappearance to please speak up or return it."
It is the second time the AED box was broken into, but the first time it has been taken.
The AED was in a box on top of a stand-alone pole at the end of the carpark near the concrete path – a location Mitchell said was carefully chosen because of the number of people who frequented the area.
People experiencing a cardiac arrest would now have to rely on an AED available at Ray White Whangārei – a four-minute return trip away.
While it sounds quick, information from the New Zealand Heart Foundation information reads: "unless action is taken within minutes, cardiac arrest will be fatal."
St John clinical director Dr Tony Smith said every year cardiac arrest kills more Kiwis than road accidents.
Last year, St John Ambulance treated about five people a day for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, with 31 per cent of people surviving to hospital arrival. In Northland there were about 400 cardiac arrests in the year to June 30, 2020.
Smith said bystander CPR and quick use of an AED can double a person's chance of survival.
Mitchell was disappointed thieves had marred the joint efforts of the Whangārei District Council, New Zealand Motor Caravan Association and St John to install the AED in 2018.
The Northland branch of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association had raised some money from a rally and after talking with St John, the two organisations "went halves" to fund the $3000 defibrillator.
"Our collective fundraising, hard work and goodwill was intended to benefit the community," Mitchell said.
St John was now working with the council on better security measures for when the AED is replaced.
To find the location of the nearest AED go to aedlocations.co.nz/.