Lost ambulance raises questions

Albert Town resident Emma Allwood came across a boy who had hurt his ankle on the new pump track in Northlake.

An incident last month has locals in Northlake concerned after it took half an hour for an ambulance to arrive on the scene because they could not locate the road on their navigation system.

Albert Town resident Emma Allwood came across a boy who had hurt his ankle on the new pump track in Northlake and called the emergency services at 7:52pm on Saturday, January 30. 

“The emergency services did not recognise any street address I gave them from Glenavon to Obelisk street,” she said. “It took half an hour for the ambulance to arrive even though I heard their sirens after 15 minutes.” Allwood called 111 again at 8:13pm and resorted to providing directions from Aubrey Road before the ambulance arrived at 8:20pm.

She said the St Johns and emergency service staff who dealt with the incident were amazing, but she was concerned that the incident could have been much more serious - if the boy’s condition was worse or the person who found him had not known the area, as there are a number of holiday homes.

On reaching out to the community online, it was revealed that a number of people had experienced similar issues with emergency services locating newer streets in Hawea, Queensberry, Northlake and even Wānaka, including Northlake Drive and Sir Tim Wallis Drive. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) spokesperson Jack Barlow explained that when QLDC created a new address or addressing road, the date was sent to Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), which maintained the authoritative address and addressing road datasets for all 67 councils around the country. 

Trent Gulliver, Manager Addressing at LINZ, confirmed that when updates were sent from QLDC (usually fortnightly) they were updated onto the system within five working days. 

“Datasets available from the LINZ Data Service are freely available and there are many users of the data for many different reasons. While we have no direct contact with commercial entities such as Google, Apple or other GPS/navigational product companies, we recommend they use LINZ official data and update the data regularly.”

Olive Taylor, St John Ambulance Communications, said that the 111 call was triaged as serious but not life threatening and the response time was in line with St John’s agreement with the Ministry of Health.

Asked why the roads had not been recognised by the system, Taylor said: 

“St John Ambulance does not access its address data directly from a large open source company like Google Maps. Our mapping data is managed by a third-party vendor and manually updated into our CAD (Computer Assisted Dispatch) system. “This system provides address information but also integrates with our complex dispatch systems, as well as those of other emergency services such as New Zealand Police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand. 

“The system also incorporates other applications like GPS tracking data, AVL (Automatic Vehicle Locator), PCL (Probable Caller Location) and many other systems. This amounts to millions of pieces of data that are being updated and in order for it to be a seamless process it requires vigorous testing to ensure accuracy before being entered into the live system.

“We endeavour to keep up-to-date nationally with address changes and new roads, and most district councils are very good at advising us of new subdivisions. In some instances, however, we are only made aware of changes when we have received a 111 call, and in those situations our 111 call handlers and dispatchers are highly trained to work back to a street in the location we do have listed, then obtain directions from that location.”

*This article has been amended.

Read edition 1014 of the Wānaka Sun here. 


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