Back on familiar ground

St John Queenstown operations team manager Kelvin Perriman returns to the resort after a decade...
St John Queenstown operations team manager Kelvin Perriman returns to the resort after a decade to take the reins of the vital emergency service in Wakatipu. Photo by James Beech.
Kelvin Perriman had to contend with a a skifield accident and a three-vehicle crash at Arrow Junction in his first few days in charge of St John Queenstown at the beginning of this month.

It would ordinarily be a baptism of fire for any new station chief while busy getting up to speed with staff, resources and counterparts in police, fire and coast guard. However, Mr Perriman already knows Wakatipu after working for St John for three years around the turn of the century.

"The job's changed quite dramatically in the 10 or 12 years," Mr Perriman said.

"There's been a shift to make sure we're a much more efficient organisation - not that we weren't before - and looking at what we do a lot closer and a lot more clinically, to a higher standard for our patients, and how the service performs to the standards set."

Mr Perriman started as a St John ambulance officer in Dunedin in 1989 then became a communications centre manager during the next 10 years.

He moved to the Queenstown station to serve as district operations manager in 1999, until he took on a variety of roles for St John in Christchurch from 2002 until 2006.

He said he gained valuable experience and a broader perspective when he worked for the service up and down the West Coast, but mainly at Fox Glacier, where he and wife Shelley Klempel owned and operated the highly rated Westhaven Motel.

Mr Perriman, through St John, responded to many vehicle crashes while living in the tourist township, most significantly the crash of the skydiving aeroplane which claimed the lives of nine tourists and staff on board, in September 2010.

Mr Perriman said he and Ms Klempel, an intensive care paramedic, had been living between Fox Glacier and Greymouth until they spotted the Queenstown opportunity.

"We've got a young family and we're looking at schools and it's a lovely part of New Zealand to live in," he said.

As operations team manager, Mr Perriman is responsible for eight full-time staff members and 15 volunteers, although he said he was keen to encourage more volunteers to join.

The station in Frankton has a fleet of five ambulances and a new "mass casualty incident trailer", which arrived in the last two weeks.

His role also means he becomes the community face of St John and the first port of call for other emergency services and the media.

"It's important to me that St John is high-profile," Mr Perriman said.

"We want to get involved in more activities and our core business is providing a high standard of care."

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