A new ambulance model designed specifically to support New Zealand’s rural and remote communities has arrived on our shores.

The new fleet of 14 Volkswagen First Response Units were handed over to St John at a launch event in Auckland on 11 July 2019.

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.

Tony Devanney, St John Assistant Director of Operations, 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 Mr 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.

The East Cape’s Waihau Bay is one of the first areas to receive one of these purpose-built units and Station Manager Spady Te Pou says his team of rural volunteers are welcoming its arrival.

“Apart from the modern spec, the shorter job cycle times mean volunteers can remain in their local communities and have greater flexibility. We’ll be able to make ourselves available to respond to emergencies more often, supporting the community and the health outcomes of our patients.”

“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 Mr 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 Mr 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.”

Kevin Richards, Head of  Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles says, “It is 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.


Ngaire Jones

St John Communications Advisor

021 0549135


  • 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. 
  • The first fleet arriving in July will be stationed in Russell, Maungaturoto, Dargaville, Hahei, Mokau, Opunake, Murupara, Waihau Bay, Hicks Bay, Te Kaha, Opotiki, Porangahau, Pongaroa and Picton. 
  • The following donors have generously contributed towards the cost of the vehicles: 
  • Chinese Chamber of Commerce (lead sponsor)
  • Waste Management
  • OfficeMax
  • Stonewood Homes
  • The Chan family
  • LJ Hooker Harveys
  • BOC
  • Spark
  • ITM
  • Quality Hotel Parnell
  • Willis Towers Watson
  • Hwa Hsin Insurance
  • Air China
  • Chinese Herald
  • VW
  • Pub Charities
Subscribe to our RSS FeedLook after the teams who look after you.St John First Aid TrainingFeel Safe with a St John Medical Alarm