Pongaroa and Porangahau are among the first communities in New Zealand that will receive a new ambulance designed specifically to support New Zealand's rural and remote communities.

Other communities to receive the new ambulances are Russell, Maungaturoto, Dargaville, Hahei, Mokau, Opunake, Murupara, Waihau Bay, Hicks Bay, Te Kaha, Opotiki and Picton.

The new fleet of 14 Volkswagen First Response Units were handed over to St John at a launch event in Auckland earlier this month.

Designed as specialist First Response Units, the new ambulances will enhance emergency response times to isolated communities, an important step in improving the equity and access of healthcare to all New Zealanders.


The new First Response Unit is based on the Volkswagen Transporter T6 ambulance, which is used as a frontline ambulance throughout Europe. Modifications have been made to suit New Zealand's unique environment.

St John assistant director of operations Tony Devanney says the fit-for-purpose vehicles are smaller and nimbler than a traditional ambulance.

"They are ideal for narrow roads, difficult terrain and St John first responders working outside metropolitan areas."

"These new units have ample room for treating and stabilising patients while a transporting ambulance is on the way, ensuring the best possible clinical care for our patients," says Devanney.

As part of St John's approach to delivering ambulance services, the new vehicles, crewed by dedicated volunteers, will be able to quickly locate and assess patients, and transport locally or to meet a helicopter or transporting ambulance.

"St John volunteers are the mainstay of rural and remote emergency response and are critical to the delivery of ambulance services. It is vital that we provide them flexibility when donating their valuable time to the community," says Devanney.

Contributions from donors around the country have made the delivery of these vehicles possible.

"Fundraising is essential to getting this new fleet on the road and we want to acknowledge those donors who have given so generously to their communities," says Devanney.


"The development of this new First Response Unit is a great example of New Zealanders coming together to ensure all communities have access to the best emergency health care possible."

Volkswagen NZ head of commercial vehicles Kevin Richards says it has been truly special to work with an organisation that does so much good for New Zealand.

"It has been a privilege to provide these state-of-the-art vehicles for St John."

"It has been a wonderful experience working with the VW team and partners in Germany to create these world-class vehicles for rural New Zealand."

Up to another 60 vehicles will be rolled out over the next two to three years.

The new Pongaroa ambulance will be handed over next month at a special dedication ceremony, the date of which has yet to be confirmed.