Challenge for St John

Staying relevant to new generations of volunteers and retaining volunteers in rural areas are challenges for St John, members and guests from the Central Lakes districts heard at the service awards night on Friday.

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper said the charitable ambulance emergency service was as relevant to him in the community as it had always been.

However, he said the biggest challenge for St John was to stay relevant to the new young volunteers the service would come to rely on.

St John had to ''speak their language'' and enable them to rise through the ranks quickly, instead of over decades.

The mayor said the organisation was well placed to do so with its youth programmes.

St John South Island region general manager David Thomas, of Christchurch, echoed recruitment issues when he spoke, and he also addressed the shortfall of rural doctors.

It was a challenge to retain St John volunteers in small rural communities because would-be volunteers feared they might have to treat ''friends and family, people they went to school with, next door neighbours''.

More than 200 years of service by St John members in Alexandra, Cromwell, Roxburgh and the Wakatipu were recognised with the presentation of certificates and uniform bars by St John senior order member Ian Rae, of Lake Hawea.

St John Wanaka held its own service awards.