Saving Lives Together - A community partnership with St John

PowerNet and St John are partners in building community resilience in Southland by improving public safety and first aid education.

For predominantly rural Southland, the ability to provide a timely life-saving response in a medical emergency is often impacted by geographical distance. PowerNet has taken up this challenge through its sponsorship of first aid training for communities and school groups across Southland and West Otago. The ultimate goal is that every home has a first aid-trained responder.

PowerNet approached St John with a sponsorship offer in 2014. Both companies recognised synergies between their organisations, particularly their shared focus on first aid, safe work practices and community wellbeing. The companies already worked together at emergencies, where network assets are often involved.

Part of the sponsorship funds St John in Schools, which teaches basic first aid skills to children and how to interact with emergency services. To date, 5,234 students at 78 Southland schools have participated. The goal is to equip 30,000 children with first aid skills by 2017.

PowerNet also funds community first aid courses that – through organisations such as The Salvation Army and Southland Plunket – reach out to vulnerable people who ordinarily may not be able to access this training. In 2015-16, 284 people participated in these courses. PowerNet’s own messaging about staying safe around electricity is also communicated at these courses.

PowerNet funds St John’s Southland training base in Invercargill. It has also begun donating publicly-accessible defibrillators with the aim of establishing a network of defibrillators across Southland. One each has been established in Frankton and Bluff. Six have been installed in PowerNet buildings.

PowerNet and St John regularly collaborate on joint safety promotion activities and Southland’s geographically dispersed population means these activities often have a strong rural focus. They include hosting a shared site at the Southern Field Days in February 2016 – an opportunity to jointly promote farm safety messages and engage with the rural community. PowerNet also funded a six-month radio advertising campaign on the Southland Farming Show that targeted the rural sector. The campaign promoted safety messages and give-away places on St John courses. As a result, 22 people were able to complete a first-aid course for free.

All of PowerNet’s 280 employees have completed a first-aid course and some also contribute to St John as annual appeal collectors.

The sponsorship partnership will run until August 2017. PowerNet reports that its collaboration with St John has strengthened community trust in its operations and created a brand synonymous with safety in the community.

The company also reports direct community results: a month after completing a PowerNet sponsored first aid course, a 16-year-old student was able to recognise that his neighbour was having a heart attack and provide first aid until help arrived.

PowerNet is owned by the Electricity Invercargill Ltd and The Power Company Ltd. It manages the electricity distribution networks of Electricity Invercargill Ltd, The Power Company Ltd and OtagoNet Joint Venture, which together service nearly 68,000 customers combined. The company also manages the network for Stewart Island.


The Community Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by PEPANZ