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Newly minted Commander of the Order John Armitt has loved every minute of his time with Hato Hone St John. “It’s a great career and a great way to give back to your community.” Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Above and beyond: St John staff receive Orders

John Armitt, the Hauraki-Coromandel area operations manager for Hato Hone St John, is one of ten people from the Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki districts to be acknowledged at an investiture ceremony on June 17.

The ceremony, to be held in Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, recognises both paid and volunteer St John workers, with many undertaking volunteer work in addition to their paid roles.

Recipients are conferred membership to the Order of St John, an honours system recognising those who give back to St John and the community. It is the only organisation in New Zealand outside of the government with its own royal honours system. Admission and promotion in the order is based on exceptional service, rather than age or length of service.

Rachel Ross of Ngatea, Helen Appleby of Paeroa, Shane Deverill of Thames, Harvey Till and Sheila Cummings of Waihi and Brenda Reid of Whitianga are set to become members of the order.

Peter Young of Paeroa, Rosanne Shaw of Thames and Michael Earl of Waitakaruru will be promoted to officer, and John Armitt is receiving the title of commander.

“It’s very humbling,” John said.

“I wasn’t expecting it. I feel it’s more of a reflection on the area and how well we operate here in Hauraki-Coromandel than on myself, it’s more of a reflection on everyone.”

The Thames resident has been in the service for 32 years, beginning as a volunteer in his time off from the farm where he worked in south Auckland.

“I was looking for something to do to get me off the farm a couple of hours a week, just to go and meet people,” he said.

“And to help in the community. I was just looking for something to do that was useful. [Wife] Lyn and I did a first aid course, and then that sort of just grew from there.”

What followed was a career progression through the ranks of St John; from volunteer he took on a paid role driving ambulances, and began sitting the necessary courses to take him from ambulance officer to intensive care paramedic and eventually into management roles.

“It’s more of a vocation than a job,” he said.

“You get to enjoy helping people, and you always see the best of people in their worst circumstances.”

John has also been involved with several other facets of the organisation over the years. He has worked with the Urban Search and Rescue team in Christchurch after the earthquakes, competed with the New Zealand team in the ambulance competitions in Australia, and spent countless hours writing grant applications.

It’s been exciting, John said, to see the development in the organisation during his time there.

“Over the last 30 years, to where we are now, which is a state of the art ambulance service with state of the art ambulance equipment – we can certainly do a lot more,” he said.

“Some of the stuff we’re doing now has some really positive outcomes for people – like the stroke pathways. We get some very positive results with that.”

John still spends some time on the road, keeping his practical skills up. But these days, he’s mostly managing teams and staff across Hauraki and the peninsula.

“I enjoy the interaction with people and still being able to help, but there’s other ways to help too – like having the right programmes in place, the right support for the staff, the right response,” he said.

“It’s not only patients but the staff themselves.

“They’re a really nice team to manage. And I couldn’t do my job without them doing theirs.” 

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Journalism funded by NZ on Air.