If you are going to be involved in a medical emergency, try
to avoid it happening at Lake Hawea, as it appears the St
John ambulance service has no record of the town's existence,
resident Barbara Chinn says.
The organisation does, however, know how to find patients at
Gladstone, just east of Lake Hawea township - an improbable
requirement, given Gladstone disappeared under water in 1956,
when the lake was raised after the Hawea dam was built.
According to modern maps, Gladstone is the tiny John's Creek
settlement on the eastern shoreline of the lake. But Mrs
Chinn said the actual Gladstone was surveyed in the late 19th
century at a site roughly halfway between John's Creek and
Lake Hawea township.
Sections were sold there but it was never developed, and it
now sits at least 10m underwater. Maps which pre-date the
Hawea dam confirm this location.
Mrs Chinn contacted the Otago Daily Times concerned
about the "obvious confusion" surrounding the place names and
locations, which came to light after she phoned for an
ambulance for a friend injured in a log-splitter accident at
her house recently.
Put through to a communications centre, she provided her
address on Muir Rd, Lake Hawea.
"The person asked whether this was in a suburb of Lake Hawea.
I explained that Lake Hawea is a township, too small to have
separate suburbs, and asked whether he knew where Lake Hawea
The operator said he did, but again asked for the name of a
suburb. Mrs Chinn suggested he might have Wanaka on his list
of places, and told him the nearest settlements were John's
Creek and Hawea Flat.
"He then asked whether I was referring to Gladstone, which
came up on his information screen. He evidently had no record
of the existence of the Lake Hawea township, and I suggested
that it might be listed simply as Hawea, and that it is to be
found on the southern shore of the lake."
That didn't work, either, so Mrs Chinn gave more detailed
directions to her house. By that stage, the patient had
regained consciousness and was able to be taken by car to the
Wanaka medical centre, so the ambulance request was
Mrs Chinn said such "serious inaccuracies" in the ambulance
service map systems needed to be rectified before a tragic
"We are lucky to have such a superb ambulance service,
existing through donations, and it is a great pity that the
information held by the comms centres is so out of date that
injured people are potentially put at serious risk."
St John Southern Lakes district operations manager Pauline
Buchanan said the 111 call was taken by an operator in the
North Island. However, "any 111 call will be dealt with in
exactly the same way, regardless of location".
If someone called 111 from a landline, as Mrs Chinn had done,
St John's systems could provide their location 95% of the
St John had investigated the incident and found Gladstone was
a "legitimate location, even though part of it is now
submerged under water".
Ms Buchanan said St John received updated maps every three
months from external, accredited sources, which were its main
source of information.
"When a person voluntarily offers pertinent information on
specific locations, we will manually update our maps."
Consequently, St John maps had now been updated to show both
Lake Hawea and Gladstone.