Amy Milne |

Hato Hone St John is proud to roll out its new Waka Manaaki branded ambulances this summer, further aligning its connection and commitment to serving the people of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Our ambulances are one of the most visible connections we have with communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.  As new ambulances and specialist response vehicles join our fleet, they will now include a new livery design more connected with Aotearoa New Zealand – while increasing the volume of reflective material on the rear of the vehicle. These improvements help maximise visibility to increase the safety for our people and patients.

Around 50 new vehicles featuring the new design will be commissioned around the country during 2023, which has all been made possible thanks to Hato Hone St John donors.   

Dan Ohs, Hato Hone St John Deputy Chief Executive Ambulance Operations, says the yellow and green colour scheme, originally adopted because of its high visibility, remains but is enhanced.

“The new Waka Manaaki design connects well with our previous livery, while also connecting with our communities in a way which is uniquely kiwi," he says.

“'Waka’ means transport method and ‘Manaaki’ means to take care of. If we break 'Manaaki' down 'Mana' is one’s power and 'aki' means to encourage or empower – which is essential for our patients.”

Dan Spearing, Hato Hone St John Ambulance National Equity Manager, says considerable attention has been given to achieve a balance between connecting and grounding our design in Aotearoa New Zealand, adhering to tikanga Māori and ensuring we meet strict mandatories around safety for our people and patients. 

“The new Waka Manaaki design also acknowledges tangata whenua (people of the land) and connects us all to te ao Māori (the Māori world). Furthermore, this design represents us a distinctive ambulance service within Aotearoa and reflects our journey to achieving better health outcomes for all, especially where health inequity is most prevalent.”

Mr Spearing adds that the organisation acknowledges the use of kaupapa Māori design comes with great responsibility.

“The responsibility to ensure we whakamana (empower) and continue to make a tangible difference for the health outcomes of Māori,” he says.

Mr Ohs says with the safety of patients and ambulance crews top of mind, Hato Hone St John has been careful to ensure the new concept maintains the function and physical safety of its transporting ambulances.

“We believe our newest ambulances are the first in the world to visually incorporate emergency vehicle safety standards while embracing cultural designs that acknowledge our tangata whenua. We’re delighted to lead the way and see these vehicles being rolled out,” Mr Ohs says.

“The new vehicles retain their visual connection with St John organisations worldwide and the addition of our translated name ‘Hato Hone’ incorporates one of New Zealand’s official languages bringing a stronger connection with the important work we do with communities right here.

“St John International is strongly supportive, and we are pleased to be the first St John organisation in the world to do this.”

The new look ambulances and specialist response vehicles are currently hitting streets across the motu as the vehicle fleet is replaced in the coming years.



Notes to the editor – more on the design meaning


  • The transformation of the design to a Waka Manaaki was underpinned by three concepts centred around care for all New Zealanders: Manaaki tangata, or care for individuals; Manaaki whānau, or care for families, communities and staff; and Manaaki hauora, care for all of our collective health and wellbeing.
  • A working group from Hato Hone St John, including representatives of the emergency ambulance service, Kāhui Mauaka Māori Responsiveness Team, Brand, and Corporate Operations, worked alongside Māori design agency Haumi and strategic brand agency Origami, to develop a design that is inclusive and represents all peoples and cultures who have made their own journey, at some point, on waka to arrive in New Zealand, while paying homage to the heritage and history of Aotearoa.
  • Haumi consulted with members of Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei, other iwi representatives, specialists in ngā toi Māori (Māori arts) including waka building experts, to guide Hato Hone St John throughout the design and development process and ensure authenticity, appropriateness, and alignment with tikanga Māori.
  • An initial concept vehicle was commissioned over a year ago with our major partner, ASB, covering the cost of the initial design application. The concept vehicle completed a journey around New Zealand, where we received more than a thousand pieces of feedback before being blessed by local iwi and going into operation in Rotorua.
  • Waka Manaaki is being applied to all new vehicles to be commissioned in the Hato Hone St John fleet including G4.1 Ambulance, Major Incident Support Team (MIST) Truck, Command Units and Patient Transfer Services – noting the design is not being applied to existing vehicles.
  • Both our updated name, and refreshed ambulance designs, will be phased in as we create new materials, get new vehicles or open new buildings. This means you will see both old and new logos and designs for some time but ensures we are taking the most cost effective and financially responsible approach.
  • More information about this journey can be found here https://www.stjohn.org.nz/ourjourney


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