Alcohol, drug use top reasons for 2020 New Year ambulance callouts

Alcohol and drug use caused mayhem across the country on Tuesday night, with ambulance staff called to treat people who had collapsed and were unconscious.

There were around 1100 calls to ambulance provider St John between 6pm and 6am, the busiest night of the year. There was a call every 30 seconds on average in the hour before and after midnight - twice as much as normal, but down slightly on 2017 and 2018.

"We put on about 100 extra staff last night and about 40 extra ambulances across the country," field operations assistant director Tony Devanney told Newshub.

He said the number of assaults has dropped significantly from last year.

"Assaults most years is the top one, definitely in the top two. This year it was the fifth - it made up about 6.6 percent of our workload. Still far too high." 

The number one reason for a callout was people collapsing from alcohol and drug use, accounting for 13 percent of callouts, followed by falls and breathing problems. 

Devanney credited the police and regular safety campaigns with bringing the number of incidents down. But even then, St John was fully stretched.

"Make sure when you need an ambulance, you really need it. We get a lot of calls for things that don't need an ambulance, and that ties up a resource... If you can deal with it, deal with it. If it's serious, definitely call us."

Most callouts happened in Auckland, followed by Whangamata, Gisborne, Napier, Queenstown, Wanaka, Tauranga.

"A lot of those areas are the coastal party areas," Devanney said, which take ambulances longer to get to.

Police said there were no major incidents reported by revellers in the country's biggest city.

In Auckland, there were 12 arrests with a range of charges including assault, but police say most were alcohol-related. Overall they say it was a good night in the city.