Kayakers to the rescue

Murchison kayaking school has stepped forward to help fill a shortage of ambulance crew in the town by getting its instructors to train as volunteers.

St John Nelson Marlborough rural support officer Lindsay McCaw said New Zealand Kayak School owner Mick Hopkinson had suggested his instructors train as ambulance crew.

St John had put the school's instructors through an intensive training course.

This meant St John, which has two paid staff in Murchison, now had the ability to send out an ambulance with two crew members over the summer period.

Mr McCaw said the arrangement worked well as Mr Hopkinson's instructors were out on the water a lot and it was great for them to be able to improve their first aid skills to deal with situations they might be presented with.

St John has traditionally struggled to find volunteers in Murchison and in 2009 held a crisis meeting attended by three of the region's MPs to discuss the future of the service in Murchison. In 2010 it funded two ambulance officer roles.

St John volunteers and the Murchison Volunteer Fire Brigade are called to deal with a number of car accidents on State Highway 6, so the arrangement was a good one for anyone who travelled through the area, he said.

The New Zealand Kayak School is based in Murchison and runs residential white water kayak courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced boaters. It has seven staff members working as St John volunteer drivers.

Mr Hopkinson said the desire to give back to the community was one of their main reasons for volunteering.

"We haven't joined with a view to becoming St John volunteers, more to help out the local community. We see ourselves as volunteer drivers."

Mr Hopkinson said he and his team know the local Murchison Prime Response in a Medical Emergency (PRIME) team, "and we also know the local GP, who is a kayaker".

He said kayaking was a safe sport and his school had only dealt with seven incidents in the past seven years, some of which were for pre-existing conditions.

"So here's a chance to be doing some first aid supervised by a professional paramedic."

St John Tasman District operations manager James McMeekin said the willingness of the kayak school team to get involved with St John was fantastic.

"It's great to have Mick and his team working with Ruth Caldwell and the rest of the Murchison team," Mr McMeekin said.

He encouraged Tasman residents interested in volunteering for St John to visit stjohn.org.nz.

The Nelson Mail