What the Ambulance team does

The Ambulance team provides strategic leadership for the emergency ambulance sector. We commission emergency ambulance services on behalf of Te Whatu Ora and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).  

The Ambulance team is involved in several areas. 

  • Planning and commissioning emergency ambulance services and providing monitoring and oversight across the sector.
  • Fulfilling Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations by working in partnership with Te Aka Whai Ora as co-commissioners.  
  • Working with providers and the wider health and emergency services sectors to ensure emergency ambulance services contribute to better and more equitable health outcomes  for Māori. 
  • Working with funders and providers to resolve issues, improve services, and find system efficiencies.

To get in touch with us, send an email to: ambulance@health.govt.nz

Calling 111 for an ambulance

To call an ambulance for an accident or medical emergency, dial 111 and ask for an ambulance. The phone operator will ask questions to make sure you get the help you need.  

  • Urgent, life-threatening situations such as cardiac arrest and serious injuries are the highest priority for ambulance services. If the operator assesses your situation as potentially life-threatening or urgent, they will get an ambulance to you as fast as possible. 
  • If an ambulance is the best help for you but your situation is not potentially life-threatening or urgent, the ambulance may not arrive immediately.  
  • If there is going to be a delay, the Ambulance Communications Centre will call regularly to check on how you are and see if things have changed. If things get worse, they will give you advice and may increase the priority of your case. 
  • If your condition is not life-threatening in any way, a registered nurse may call you back to talk through your symptoms. They might help you make an appointment with your doctor or recommend ways that you can look after yourself.

For more information about what happens when you call 111, visit the St. John Ambulance website or Wellington Free Ambulance website

Anyone can call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 for health advice and information, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s emergency ambulance services

The Ambulance team contracts providers to deliver these services across the motu. Providers employ trained ambulance per and skilled volunteers. Air ambulance service providers also employ aviation crew.

New Zealand’s emergency ambulance service has three main parts:   

  1. Road ambulance
  2. Air ambulance – this includes helicopters and planes
  3. Communications centresthese answer 111 calls, provide clinical advice to people calling 111, and send out ambulances

Road ambulance 

Wellington Free Ambulance covers Wellington, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa. Hato Hone St John covers the rest of New Zealand. 

Air ambulance

The aeromedical service is made up of air ambulances (both helicopters and planes), associated road ambulance transfers, hospital services and clinical coordination.  

Air ambulance and patient transfers by helicopter  

Air ambulance and patient transfers by plane  

Read our generic service agreement for air ambulance service providers.

Communications centres 

The three communications centres in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all work together as a single virtual centre. The virtual centre includes a clinical hub to provide clinical advice and the Air Desk, which organises air ambulance helicopters.  

PRIME Services

The Primary Response in Medical Emergencies (PRIME) service aims to ensure timely access to high quality pre-hospital emergency treatment in areas that don’t have ambulance services nearby, or where it may take longer than usual for an ambulance to arrive.

Hato Hone St John manages PRIME responders to support the ambulance service in rural and remote areas. 

PRIME is funded by Te Whatu Ora for health-related services, and ACC for injury-related services.


The Government and ACC provide most of the emergency ambulance funding.  

Emergency ambulance services for medical patients are funded by Te Whatu Ora and services for injured patients are funded by ACC. The rest is funded through donations and fundraising, and Hato Hone St John charges a small part of the cost to medical patients who use an ambulance.

Read our funding reports

What we expect from our providers

Standards and accreditation

Emergency ambulance service providers are required to meet certain standards and maintain appropriate accreditation. These include:  

  • NZS 8156: 2019 Ambulance, paramedicine and patient transfer services  
  • ISO 9001: 2015 Quality Management Systems
  • The New Zealand Aeromedical and Air Rescue Standard V3.0 2018 (for air ambulance providers)  
  • Relevant regulations (for air and road ambulance providers)
  • Certification by the Civil Aviation Authority (for air ambulance providers).

Paramedic registration

Te Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council is responsible for paramedic registration. Its job is to protect the health and safety of the public by making sure that paramedics are competent and fit to practice.  

Find out more about paramedics and paramedicine on the Paramedic Registration Council website.

Performance reports

Emergency ambulance service providers must report to the Ambulance team regularly against key performance indicators. This enables us to track performance, identify any issues, and make informed decisions about how to improve services.

The reports can be found in the publication section.

Adverse event reporting

Most callers and patients receive excellent care from ambulance service providers. Occasionally, something bad happens that impacts a patient’s care or outcome. These are called ‘adverse events’, which are logged and reported to the Ambulance team.

Emergency ambulance providers assign all adverse events a Severity Assessment Code (SAC) rating to determine the severity of the event. The provider notifies the Ambulance team within five working days of a SAC1 or SAC2 event.

Find out more about the SAC rating and triage tool on the HQSC website.

Prior to July 2017, the Ambulance team published a summary of adverse event reports from emergency ambulance providers. Adverse event reports for 2013-2017 are available here .

Since then, emergency ambulance providers are expected to provide a publicly available summary report on their website.

You can find some of their reports here:


Aeromedical Commissioning Programme (ACP)

Air ambulance services are a vital part of New Zealand’s emergency ambulance network. Air ambulances and their crew provide the initial treatment and transfer of sick or injured patients from the community to hospital. They also transport patients between hospitals to help get the right care.

The ACP aims to make New Zealand’s air ambulance services into an integrated high-quality aeromedical service.

ACP Clinical and Technical Advisory Group

The Clinical and Technical Advisory Group (CTAG) is made up of representatives from across the aeromedical sector. 

The group provides technical and clinical expertise, advice, and support to those working on the ACP.

The group provides oversight from across the aeromedical sector, advocates for efficient and effective outcomes and best practice, and champions the ACP.

ACP Newsletter

Sign up to the newsletter by sending us an email at aeromedicalprogramme@health.govt.nz.

Pātiki and Waharua Kōpito patterns

Ambulance team publications