Recognising community service

St John Ambulance Palmerston station volunteer leader Tania Bungard. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
St John Ambulance Palmerston station volunteer leader Tania Bungard. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
This week Oamaru Mail reporter Wyatt Ryder talks to Palmerston’s Hato Hone St John Ambulance station volunteer leader, Tania Bungard, who was recognised with a Citizens' Award for her eleven years of dedication to the service including 10 years as an ambulance officer and her efforts to establish the service in Palmerston in the first place.


Tania Bungard: Good in an emergency

Emergency services in East Otago would not be the same without Tania Bungard.

The Hato Hone St John ambulance station volunteer leader helped establish the Palmerston facility and 11 years later continues to ensure it runs smoothly.

It was first established in 2013, but St John had been working to set up the station for quite some time, Mrs Bungard said.

What it needed was ‘‘some buy-in from the community’’, which she and a group of locals were able to provide.

When the station first opened Mrs Bungard signed up for six shifts a week, but now had a casual contract with St John filling ambulance vacancies outside of Palmerston and had to cut back her volunteer hours.

Despite her more busy life, Mrs Bungard continues to offer her time and skills on her own time,

On behalf of St John she demonstrated to community groups, helped liaise with Civil Defence and recently began working on providing CPR training to the local community.

She also dealt with new volunteers, which she was always on the lookout for.

Palmerston had room for up to 20 volunteers on the roster, but it struggled to be fully staffed.

Working as an ambulance officer could be intense, but after more than 10 years she felt more confident inside the ambulance.

That did not stop the adrenaline from kicking in sometimes.

The most stressful part was getting to an emergency, as once a patient was in the ambulance they could help keep them safe.

There was also the frustration of drivers who did not make way.

Under most circumstances ambulances were only allowed to go 90kmph, as they were heavy vehicles.

On highways a lot of people would pull over, but not slow down to allow the ambulance to pass.

Sometimes the ambulance would create a backup of traffic and it would have to pull over to let people pass.

It could be frustrating, but specialist training and years of experience had helped her keep calm and focus on ensuring everybody was safe.

‘‘You learn how to deal with those situations.’’

When they got into the cities it was often a different situation.

Regularly people would do everything in their power to make way for an ambulance, which often left her feeling emotional.

‘‘It makes your heart melt.’’

She also spent many years working with community groups around Palmerston that revolved around her children, such as Plunket and local school groups.

But as the children grew she moved along with them, involving herself with different schools and sports groups.

Now her children were grown up she had taken a step back, but still made sure to support the Eastern Rugby Club, which her son was a part of.


Mike Harris: Big in boating

The last of this year’s recipients, Mike Harris established the Friendly Bay Boat Society in 2010, a group of boating enthusiasts who helped to build a sense of harbourside community.

Mike was part of the group that co-ordinated the Harbour Regatta/Harbour Day and Coracle Race on the Oamaru Harbour for several years.

Mike is well-known in the Waitaki community for his generosity of time, helping others with personal projects but also on community endeavours.

His work on and around Harbour Street benefits the well-being of the Waitaki District and its citizens in many ways.

When his boat Black Crow sank in the harbour recently Mike demonstrated vast reserves of resilience and modelled the kind of citizen the Waitaki District can be proud of.

He hopes to be back out on the water soon with a new boat and may yet revive the Oamaru Harbour regattas.

As part of his humble character Mike did not wish to embellish his voluntary work in the community by speaking to us.