Far North Search & Rescue Inc.

Professional Volunteer Search Team Serving the Far North of New Zealand

Far North Search and Rescue Operations

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A Selection of Typical Far North Search and Rescue Activations:

Note: These are personal views and accounts, and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of either Far North Search and Rescue, or the NZ Police.

CALLOUT: November 2012, Waima

Call out for possible stretcher carry for 67 year old female who had injured (?broken) her ankle on the Waioku Coach Road track.  Team stood down en-route after NEST Helimed winched her out.

STANDBY: July 2012, Dargaville

Put on Standby to assist NLSAR if required.  92 Yr. old Male absconded from hospital, Police on scene within ten minutes of last sighting. Searchers numbered 35-40 including Northland SAR, fire and ambulance services.  Located 30 minutes later, 1.3km away and five (5) metres up a tree !!!

Fire Service assisted the man down…

CALLOUT: June 2012, Whangarei

Called by Police SAR to assist Northland SAR in search for 72 yr.old male. Stood down whilst mobilising after LP located having wandered onto a nearby property.

CALLOUT: April 2012, Waipoua Forest

A 60-year-old woman lost in Waipoua Forest overnight has been found safe and well.

The Dargaville woman went to the forest with her sister and her sister’s partner on Saturday morning to gather flax for weaving off Waipoua Settlement Rd and they became separated about 11.30am.

Northland police search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said the sister and partner got others to help them look, but couldn’t find the woman and police were called about 2.45pm on Saturday. Northland and Whangarei search and rescue volunteers and police had combed the bush without success until 2am yesterday, when the hunt was called off because steep gullies and slips made the search area treacherous in the dark.

The search resumed at 6.30am yesterday, with Far North SAR volunteers and members of the Whangarei 4WD Club boosting the search party to around 30 people.

Mr Metcalfe said searchers at a high point spotted the woman emerging into a clearing about a kilometre from where they were at 8.47am. “We found her safe and well at 9am. She didn’t need medical attention and was able to walk out to be reunited with her family.”

The woman was wearing only light clothing and had no food. She was wearing gumboots when separated from her companions, but had lost them during the night, which she had spent next to a creek. “The weather was fairly warm that night, but there was a chilly southerly wind early on,” Mr Metcalfe said. “She was in good spirits and in pretty good physical shape when we found her. It was a good outcome for the search.”

[LP had only travelled 870m from LKP in 24Hrs, but was heading downhill away from road and vehicle. Had been surrounded by light and sound sweeps during night, but did not respond.]

CALLOUT: March 2012, Whangarei

Called out to assist Northland SAR for 81 year old male who failed to return to rest home that night. Re-search of rest home after about 6Hrs revealed LP had returned and was asleep in bed. Message from rest home staff of his return hadn’t made it as far as the SAR teams!

CALLOUT: February 2012, Kerikeri

Two males aged 20 & 18 had entered Waitangi Forest in an apparently drunken state sometime around 0600Hrs. The 18yo later emerged and advises occupants of nearby house that his mate was missing. Disorientated, they decided to head back to the stream, getting separated on the way. Once the probable entry point into forest was established, teams were deployed using sound lines. It seems that the whistles woke him up and ‘flushed’ him out into the arms of waiting Police.

CALLOUT: October 2011, Paihia

Forty one year old woman suffering from depression, last seen by landlord heading into Paihia.  Following day landlord reports her missing.  Police make inquiries, her cellphone and her belongings are all in her flat.
Searched prominent locations and a 300 metre radius around the house.  No clues found.

Search continued following morning. Teams concentrating in area around cemetery plus two kayak teams covering the islands just off  shore and Te Haumi inlet.  Also had a team  look at house nearby where she was bought up.

Just before lunchtime, her father who was having a coffee in a local cafe spots her walking along the street.  He grabs a local Police officer and they bring her along to HQ where she is debriefed and teams called in.

On Sunday afternoon she went into Paihia for some takeaways. Headed home but before getting there decided she needs time out and books into a hotel. Lays low for a couple of days until deciding to go for a walk when she is spotted.

CALLOUT: January 2011, North Cape

Far North Search and Rescue were called out to search for a missing person following discovery of a wrecked yacht. The yacht, which still had a small sail up, was reported submerged on rocks on a section of rugged coastline south of Tapotupotu near Cape Reinga. The vessel is reported to have left Opua last week but it is unsure how long it has been up on the rocks.A helicopter searched the immediate area, and Department of Conservation staff walked most of the coastline around Spirits Bay. Some inaccessible cliff areas were searched by inflatables from Ahipara Surf Lifesaving. The team was subsequently stood down before deployment. Thank you to all who made themselves available for this search.

CALLOUT: January 2011, Whangarei

Far North SAR called in to assist Northland Land SAR in the search for a 90 year old woman. She was located behind a seven wire fence that she had climbed over. She had tripped on some of the hard cattle tracks and rolled down the hill until stopped by a medium size rock. She was disappointed she had been found as she was only resting and was hoping to be home before her family knew she was missing. “They’ll only worry about me now” were her initial thoughts.

CALLOUT: October 2010, Waipoua Forest
Police are appealing for information on a man who has been missing in the Waipoua Forest area in Northland since Wednesday afternoon (October 13).

Troy Adrian Liddington, aged 36 years from Warkworth, was last seen leaving a house near the Department of Conservation Headquarters in the forest about 4pm on Wednesday.

Mr Liddington and his brother were visiting the area. On the day of his disappearance he told his brother that he was going for a walk.

Although he was not well-prepared for walking in the bush, he was known to be a very good bushman and able to survive.

When he had not returned by Friday, his family alerted police. The Police Search and Rescue Team began a search of the area on Friday afternoon and continued the search on Saturday along with members of the Northland and Far North LandSar groups.

The search was joined by Mr Liddington’s family members.

With no sign of the missing man by Saturday evening, the police suspended the search.
Mr Liddington’s family has remained in the area to continue looking for him.

Police would like to hear from anyone who may have seen the missing man in the Waipoua Forest area since he disappeared on Wednesday afternoon or if they have seen anything that may help police find Mr Liddington.

Mr Liddington is Maori, 1.8m tall, weighing about 127 kg. On the day of his disappearance he was wearing size 11 steel capped boots, black track pants and a blue top. He also had a lighter tied around his neck and was wearing a bone carving in the shape of a half horse/half person. His head and face had been shaved.

Anyone with information on Mr Liddington’s whereabouts can contact Dargaville Police on 09 439 3400.

CALLOUT: September 2010, Ngawha Springs

Callout for missing male, stood down when located shortly afterwards.

CALLOUT: August 2010, Bay of Islands

Team called out to search coastline for man believed to have fallen out of dinghy. Nothing located. Body was located 14 days later 27km away by a fisherman

STANDBY: August 2010, Waipoua Forest
On Standby for 2 missing kayakers in the Waipoua forest. The 2 men had simply told their wives it would take 3 1/2 hrs travel to get to their destination without actually telling them where that was.
Naturally when they failed to return home, no-one knew where they were and Police Intel had to work overtime to get their location.
One of their vehicles was finally located at the top of the Waipoua forest, not that far from the end of the old Coach Road. Eventually the 2nd vehicle was located some distance away through the connecting waterways of the Waipoua catchment. While this info was being relayed over the phone by Police, a helicopter located the men and a paramedic was being winched down to ascertain the condition of one of them, and prepare them for winching out. Thus saving a late afternoon romp down some swollen muddy Waipoua river. Gotta love those ‘copters.

CALLOUT: July 2010, Dargaville
Northland SAR and Police had searched through to 0100Hrs, and Eagle One had flown over the area using FLIR and night goggles but to no avail.
Local farmers supplied a variety of 4×4 vehicles with searchers clinging on for dear life as the procession made its way up the steep incline to the drop off point, all looking slightly reminiscent of a scene from Mad Max.
At this point the radio crackled to life with someone having spotted some movement in the bush from a vantage point.
The NEST helo had just arrived, and quickly confirmed it was our man.He was soon whisked away to Whangarei hospital to have a variety of cuts and bruises seen to. He has indeed a lot to be thankful that a sharp pair of eyes had spotted him as inclement weather was due.

CALLOUT: June 2010, Waipoua Forest
FNSAR were asked to help in the search for 2 missing pig hunters who had already spent 1 cold night in the bush. At about 0130hrs on the 26th the LPs were located by Northland SAR and it was decided that because of the physical condition at the time that all of the party would bivvy up for the night and hopefully walk out in the morning. Upon FNSAR arriving at HQ we were advised that one of the LP was in poor condition and a stretcher carry may be required. However (thankfully) showing great character and determination, “Big Dave” as he came to be known, made it out to the waiting Ambulance where he was given a medical but declined a ride to the hospital.

CALLOUT: May 2010 Te Paki, Ninety Mile Beach

Another “Stand Up, Stand Down” for a German tourist lost in sand dunes at Te Paki. The 20-year-old was part of a group of international tourists who had gone to Cape Reinga and had stopped at the sand dunes. He became separated from the group and lost at about 1800Hrs. The alarm was raised at 2215Hrs and Police and local farmers scoured the area on quad bikes and four-wheel-drive vehicles. The NEST Helicopter was called in, and with night vision goggles was able to find the man, who had been signaling with the flash on his camera, in a remote part of Te Paki Station at about 0100Hrs.

STANDBY May 2010, Ngawha Springs

70 year old male reported missing – located disoriented, cold and wet, but generally okay by Police.

CALLOUT May 2010 Kawakawa

Callout for missing 58 year old male Paroxysmal sleep sufferer (sudden uncontrollable compulsion to fall asleep). Stood down in early hours after he was found walking along road.

CALLOUT April 2010 Totara North, Whangaroa

Far North Search and Rescue, Police and the Northland Search & Rescue teams continue to search for a 29 year old male, believed to be missing in the Whangaroa area.

An extensive helicopter flyover had focussed on coastal areas and also identified possible locations in cliff areas inaccessible by ground teams.

Subsequently, teams deployed included a kayak-based team for an intensive coastal search through mangroves and a rope team investigated ledges under cliffs on Kairara Rock (Dukes Nose). Dense undergrowth and steep terrain have made progress and radio communications difficult for all teams.

Combined operation consisted of four days, totalling around 600 searcher hours, before being suspended by Police pending further information coming to light.

CALLOUT April 2010 Akatere, Whangaroa

Call received at 1930Hrs to retrieve a farmer, in a tree, 10m down a cliff… Two teams deployed, but locals had extricated him with dubious ropes and questionable technique when first team arrived at scene, so escorted all out of bush. Only injury reported was young girl in original lost party who suffered a couple of bee/wasp stings.

Update: Have since found out how well-meaning locals “rescued” subject using dodgy rope techniques – Lots of potential to have become a body recovery operation!

CALLOUT Jan 2010 Diggers Valley, Kaitaia

At about 2.40pm on 29/10/2010, an 87 year old male was reported missing to Police. At 9.30am he had gone to collect firewood on his farm near Kaitaia and had failed to return. His quad bike was found abandoned giving further concern for his safety. Whangarei Police Search and Rescue team utilising local members of the public located the missing person in bush on his property. He was tired and dehydrated but otherwise unharmed.

CALLOUT Jan 2010 Puketi Forest

65yo male and three children reported overdue from daytrip. Subjects walked out and located by Police as team being mobilised.

CALLOUT Sept 09 Taheke

A call from the Police, around 2030hrs on Sunday, informing us that there was a missing 17yo male in the Taheke area. The lost party had gone into the bush not far from his home in Puha Rd to look for a missing dog. This was around 1130hrs. The youth had taken a bitch (female dog) with him, possibly to attract the missing dog.

The LP was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, had no food, water, warm clothing or possession of a cell phone and a heavy frost was forecast for that night.

Friends of the youth, who is from England, contacted the Police and we were notified shortly after.

After a discussion between the Advisor and IC it was decided that due to the lack of clothing and resources, the rapidly dropping temperature and the fact and that he was alone meant that an immediate response was required and a search was initiated at 2100Hrs.

As searches go there are lots of surprises and the this one was no different in the fact the a youth fitting the LP’s description had emerged quite some distance away towards Rawene. Some time later the Police were able to confirm this and FNSAR was stood down, LP located and we hadn’t made it out of Kerikeri.

CALLOUT July 09 Omahuta

Our biggest search for many years.

Three persons; a 40yo anaphylactic male, 13yo deaf girl and a 6yo asthmatic without meds in gale force winds and single digit windchill lightly clad, little food and with a 36Hr head start. Sounds like something the lads from SARINZ would dream up as a training exercise!

Party entered Omahuta Forest on the Friday morning, apparently for a pighunt. Weather wasn’t forecast to close in until late that night, however having become disoriented, the party were caught out and spent two nights out. They sheltered in a bivvy the first night and a hollow tree for the second.

Their vehicle was located at around 2100Hrs on the Saturday evening with FNSAR, NLSAR called out shortly after. Auckland SAR were readied to provide second shift as a precaution.

Comms were a challenge with a 500m wall of rock between SAR base and the teams working on the plateau, but utilising a DOC repeater as well gave a second line of comms where the SAR repeater couldn’t quite reach.

Locals were in abundance, who for the most part played the game, listened and behaved as instructed – although there were several loose cannons and subsequently frequent false voice responses to sound lines, each of which took time to check and confirm identity.

At the height of the search, we had 7 SAR teams in the field, along with a few made up of locals directed to clear lower POA areas freeing up trained searchers. A good lead was provided by the parties pig dog, which when spotted on the track headed off to the NE, this was where the six year old was subsequently located, separated from the others who were apparently a couple of hundred metres away on the other side of the track.

One of our biggest searches for a long time, and tested the systems right the way through.

You can view some media coverage on this search via the links at the top of the gallery page.

CALLOUT May 09 Kerikeri

The morning of the tracking training saw a good turnout in central Kerikeri for a despondent/possible suicide. As a priority, teams were deployed along the multiple walking tracks along the edge of the river and around the end of the reflex tasking phase, a Police dog handler spotted the agitated subject trying to hide in the scrub on the opposite side of the river. A couple of teams were rapidly placed in confining positions and the man was collected shortly afterwards. After a short break, people headed up to Puketi for the scheduled training…

CALLOUT Jan 09 Whangaroa

Two women reported overdue on Lane Cove track. Collected from Lane Cove safe and well by local boatie as SAR called out. Stood down prior to departure

STANDBY Aug 08 Kaeo

1 x 20 year old and 1 x 21 year old went fishing in the morning out to Mahinepua, near Kaeo with the intention to be back around early evening. When they didn’t return their car was found still at the beach around 2000hrs. At about 2300hrs police were notified and the Kaeo constable was despatched. While he was enroute we were notified, and as we were rubbing the sleep out of our eyes a text was received from the lost party saying they were safe and everyone went back to bed.

CALLOUT July 08 Waitangi Forest

Fate obviously decided our kit hadn’t got wet enough at Karetu, and introduced us to hunter number two in almost as many days.

Subject had entered forest with his wife to take dogs for a run. When the dogs took off from the truck he went looking for them, twisting his ankle in a gully. When the dogs returned but he hadn’t his wife raised the alarm.

Four teams spent until 0400 running sound/light lines along various tracks in the area with no response.

Timeout was called and teams headed back to base for a couple of hours kip before restarting.

At around 0700, the IMT visited the LKP and as they were returning to the vehicles discovered the LP hobbling along the track. There can’t be many instances of the IMT locating the subject in the field! Interesting point that although teams could hear other soundlines at 100m range and were estimated to be no more than 50m from him, LP reported he heard and saw nothing – possibly some hearing issues there?

CALLOUT July 08 Haruru Falls

Another almost search.

83yo Male subject wandered away from rest home, located by Police about 150m from LKP just as the phonetree was activated.

CALLOUT July 08 Kawakawa

Torrential rain, Gales, Floods, and the LP with a good headstart – What more could you ask for for a search after an eight month lull…

And what better way to shock peoples systems back into some sort of SAR configuration than running around muddy hills in winds gusting to 120km/Hr+ (167km/Hr at Cape Brett) whilst watching the floodwaters slowly (well, rapidly) inundate the road home.

Subject was a lone pighunter, missing around one and a half days (varies according to source)

Just to make it interesting, he was reported overdue just as the “Storm of the Decade” descended on the Far North. All good stuff!

Fortunately Northland SAR were already en route, saving a phonecall and boosting the much needed numbers ending up with around 22 bods in the field.

Going was tough and the wind made soundlines unidirectional, water was sheeting off the ridges and tracking was difficult with our own tracks in nice deep mud being obliterated by rain in a few hours. One team had voice response to a soundline and rapidly closed in…to discover a loose cannon hunter standing on a ridge waiting for his mate who had “gone home for lunch”! Fortunately the subject self-recovered about 6 hours into the search and everyone was able to pack up and bug out before they got locked in by the floodwaters. LP had bivvied up overnight using his dog for warmth.

CALLOUT April 08 Charter vessel aground, North Cape

Stood down after vessel freed and under tow about 4Hrs after grounding.

This edited account of the grounding comes from a passenger on board – Thanks go to Graham McKenzie for permission to use.

“Upon arriving at the cape it was thought that with the amount of north in the wind under the light house would be the best bet. We were anchored up in 8m of water in fairly flat conditions.

Just after dark we were surprised by a bump and quickly saw that we had sailed forward (not swung) into some rocks.

Winding in the anchor, it simply skidded across the surface never getting a bite to pull us back. Rick tried very briefly to back out. A gamble for sure but had it paid off we would have been away with minimal damage. This was not the case and we shut down. The boat then settled in what appeared to be a channel between two rocks with the bow hard on the stony beach.

The tide still had 2hrs to fall so we sat and waited as Geoff Lamond was making all speed up from Houhora to attempt to pull us off. Think heavy was the call to assist the boat to settle till the tide rose again.

Rick then informed us that they were going to airlift us off by chopper. Now my knees began to knock a little louder but I gathered some stuff (smokes 2 lighters my wallet and cellphone) and put them all on a ziplock bag. I casually asked who was going first and was stunned when the others all pointed at me saying “If they can get you up there, we will be cool to follow”.

5 nervous piddles later I was happy to see them fly away with out a trial lift since I was to be that lift.

“Outer Limits” arrived and after connecting a tow line to the stern we lightened ship removing all the water in the bait tanks and all the nearly 1 tonne of ice. With OL motors ticking over we settled in to wait for the tide and surge to lift us off. Quicker than I would have thought I felt the first movement confirmed by watching the big rock 5m off our beam sliding past.

After that first shift the next became bigger and bigger till we were bobbing in the swell very normally.

Tow rope attached to the bow we headed back under tow to Houhora. Nowcast (Weather) had the wind at 45kn at Cape Maria and we certainly had all of that at times. By now it was 11.30 or thereabouts and to say the tow down was not pleasant for me at least would be a massive understatement.

Very happy campers to be tied up at the Houhora wharf at 6.30 the next morning.

A slow drive home as we were a pretty tired team with many TXTs to answer. ”

More details here: TAIC Report

CALLOUT March 08 Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands

Male, 65 & Female 58 forced to abandon sinking vessel. Located and winched by Helimed from rocks near scene during callout phase.

CALLOUT Feb 08 Mangonui

72 year old male. Located in pub during mobilization.

CALLOUT Nov 07 Paihia

Coastal search for swimmer who disappeared while swimming about 100m offshore. Subject was last seen about third of way between Motumaire Island and the Paihia foreshore and extensive surface searching immediately after his disappearance failed to find him. Working with Coastguard, we were called in the following morning to conduct a coastal sweep and also clear the islands in the immediate vicinity. No sign was found and surface search was called off at midday pending arrival of Police divers.

Dive squad located subjects body at around 1500Hrs, a very short distance from PLS.

CALLOUT Oct 07 Te Kao

A logging truck driver was reported missing after his truck was found abandoned in the forest. A large contingent of co-workers and friends searched for him for around 3-4 hours before calling Police. We were activated and in a very short space of time the convoy was heading north.

The LP was located shortly before our arrival and since we had driven for 120-odd km (a bit extra for one vehicle who overshot and had a quick Tiki Tour of the Far North!) we descended on the local Chippie for a bit of food before the long trip home.

Favourable comments were received on our prompt turnout, and the good numbers at short notice too.

CALLOUT Oct 07 Kerikeri

3yo sent to her bedroom after being scolded by her mother at 0900, discovered missing at 1000Hrs.

Mother and son “searched” the house and immediate surroundings then called Police.

Due to the high urgency considering her age and proximity of significant water hazards we were called out immediately.

The child was found soon after the callout and a classic case of re-searching areas that family have already checked – the girl was located sound asleep in a bedroom under a duvet, which is why she didn’t respond to calls.

CALLOUT Sept 07 Bland Bay

Whilst in the throes of SAREX ’07, the No-Duff call comes through …with a twist.

The SAREX was right in the middle of the search area! Everyone switched over from Practice to Active and it was all on.

1 local from Whangarei and 2 unknowns had left Oakura in their boat with no known intentions. Parents became concerned when the tractor and trailer was found on beach and weather had deteriorated badly.

Turns out the boatie got in rough weather and headed into Whangamumu harbour. However they had no VHF or cellphone reception. They did have a tent and plenty of food etc. so just camped up on the beach – They didn’t consider climbing a hill to get a call out to let anyone know they were okay!!

They were first located by the NEST helicopter, followed by the Coastguard and eventually by a LSAR team

A really great way to finish a SAREX, everyone went home on a high and a couple who have been waiting very patiently for their first search were finally rewarded with a walk up and down hills in rain and gales in the middle of nowhere.

CALLOUT Jan 07 Whangarei

Called in to assist Northland SAR for an elderly farmer who was last seen two days previously. The area was unfortunately trashed for TCA by locals and the copious amounts of rain didn’t help. Electric fences, dead cows and tomos were just some of the hazards… oh, and the possibility that the LP was armed (Just to make it interesting).

The torrential rain continued for most of the day, rendering all unprotected paper into mush. Life was made considerably easier due to laminated maps, and a supply of hot drinks and munchies at the base (Thanks guys!)

LP reported as possibly wearing a yellow jersey…. This being on a farm heavily infested with Ragwort, in full bloom.

LP was located deceased mid afternoon in a bush-filled gully at the back of the farm at the 600m mark. He had been described as “unable to walk more than 20m without stopping to catch his breath”.

As we weren’t required for the carry, we headed off to wring ourselves out.

STANDBY Nov 06 Ngawha Springs

Brief standby for a logger reported missing after he was observed to take a different turning by the work vehicles leaving the forest the previous Friday (4 days). Was located safe and well at a different address before the team were mobilised.

CALLOUT Nov 06 Ahipara

53yo male disappeared while gathering paua off the southern end of Tauroa Point reef in an area locally known as “The Box” – a large submerged sea cave. FNSAR members joined with 5 Whangarei Police SAR and a handful of the Surf Lifesaving Club in a very brisk Northerly for an eventful drive for 9km around the reef. The trailer performed well as SAR Base workspace in the field – even in 40Kn winds!

Police Dive squad spent short period of time in water at PLS before deeming it unsafe, having to hold onto rock to prevent rip taking the fully kitted divers out. Holding onto mature kelp attachment points merely pulled the kelp off the rock the rip was so strong. Visibility measured in inches

Search scaled down at approx 1700Hrs in order to retreat before tide cut us off having covered 17.5km of coastline.

Excellent performance by the newer members in difficult conditions, with relays working well on simplex once teams were within range of base (Comms were shocking, thought to be due to the spray coming off the surf)

The body was later found washed up on Mitimiti beach, 35km south, by a local out for a walk six days after he went missing.

CALLOUT Nov 06 Kaikohe

These two likely lads, aged 9 & 11, were the subject of a high urgency callout one evening. Reported as being missing since 1300Hrs, they were located as we were converging on the scene. It would have been a long night otherwise – Apparently they had hitch-hiked a mere 70-odd km away to Whangarei(!) and were found hiding under a bridge, spotted by chance by an on-the-ball Whangarei Police officer who identified them from the description given over the radio.

Two searches in 24Hours…

CALLOUT Oct 06 Tokerau Peninsula

What started out as a routine low urgency coastal search for a missing fisherman off Matauri Bay, changed quickly into an urgent search for an elderly woman overdue from a walk. Packs were hastily re-converted back to land-search format from their carefully organized ‘marine’ search contents and kayaks removed from roof racks across the district (One person sensing the urgency apparently just threw their partners’ yak off to save time, She claims it fell.)

Operation commenced at 2200Hrs with a good turnout from the group, and supplemented by a large number of locals there were plenty of teams being pushed out the door. The sunbaked clay surfaces around the PLS yielded few tracking opportunities, and unfortunately the area was also heavily contaminated by well-meaning types earlier in the day that any hope of a potential direction of travel was nil. Efforts were directed towards her propensity for long walks and many kilometres of tracks, beaches and roads were cleared before the last team crawled into base for a few hours sleep just before dawn.

The following day (well, same day just a couple of hours later) saw teams heading out, running on pure coffee and sugar. Still with very vague information, TCA and decision pointing on possible routes was the order of the day and, with the new advantage of daylight, a coastal sweep was quickly on the water.

The woman was located, unfortunately deceased, shortly afterwards by the boat in a rocky area of coast.

Following a short, informal debrief, Base was packed up and everyone headed south to Matauri Bay for the originally planned coastal search:

CALLOUT Oct 06 Matauri Bay

Following some very much appreciated hot food, packs were shed for kayaks and teams headed out to try and locate the outstanding missing fisherman following a boating accident.

An extensive amount of shoreline was searched, both along the mainland coast as well as around islands, but nothing found.

Priceless “Kodak moments” were observed as some members tried to launch their kayaks. One member of the Police SAR squad seemed to enjoy the washing machine experience enough to repeat it when they came back in to land.

CALLOUT June 06 Kaitaia

On the evening of Queens Birthday, the phone tree was activated for a 65yo woman missing since earlier in the afternoon. Reported as having angina, bi-polar disorder and a history of suicide attempts.

She was located 200m away, deceased, by a family member shortly after the callout and the team stood down.

STANDBY April 06 Cape Brett

Standby received for a female tramper who had broken her leg at the end of the Cape Brett track. It was initially thought we might be needed for a stretcher carry, down to Deep Water Cove for subsequent evacuation by boat. This would have been a good workout immediately prior to our scheduled ropes training weekend! However, a chopper was ultimately able to get in and lift her out and the Stand Down was called, saving us from a potentially very arduous stretcher carry.

CALLOUT April 06 Puketi Forest

A British couple intended to do the Waipapa River track and return to the Forest HQ via the Walnut track – Easily a 6 hour trip for a fast mover who knows the track, probably not realistic for a couple aged 58 and 67 travelling in light footwear and not used to bush travel!

This may explain the apparent ‘timewarp’ where they spent 3 hours travelling the section between Onekura and Walnut tracks (30 – 40min normally). We were unable to work out why this section had taken so long, but suspect they are the latest victims of the huge quantity of flagging tape and trapping lines in the forest from the pest eradication program. A similar fate befell the Czech tourists in December last year where they mistook the tapes for the route.

The LP were located on the Pirau 4WD track and reunited with their campervan around three hours after they had placed the original call to Police.

STANDBY March 06 Puketi

Short standby for a gentleman overdue on the bottom end of the Waipapa River track. He had become separated from his wife who had raised the alarm. He was located by Police shortly afterwards on the track about 40min up from Forest Pools and could be walked out.

CALLOUT Feb 06 Kerikeri

FNSAR joined Whangarei Police SAR to conduct an initial search of immediate surroundings to try and locate a woman who had gone missing. No clues or indications were discovered in very difficult terrain with critical spacing closing to as little as 2 metres at times – and lots of big gorse!

A section of the FNSAR “marine” division returned the following week to conduct a 23km coastal search via kayak along much of the Te Puna inlet, but nothing was found that could shed light on the disappearance.

CALLOUT March 06 Kerikeri (Follow on from above)

The body of the missing woman was located on our second visit to the block, not much more than 20m outside the original task boundaries. Whilst the media have had a field day with frequent references to “3 weeks to find”, in reality she was found on the second day of searching and thanks go to everyone who could make it to the searches and for the effort put in, in very difficult terrain.

STANDBY Jan 06 Kaikohe

Male failed to return from evening walk at Ngawha Springs. – Self recovery the following morning before FNSAR turnout.

CALLOUT Jan 06 Paihia.

It was a dark, stormy and disgustingly humid night when the phones went for our first search of the year.

A 61 year old insulin dependent diabetic was reported overdue from his run earlier that evening at Waitangi where he and his wife were staying.

A good turnout for this high urgency search in very hot, wet and humid conditions (27°C in the rain at midnight is just plain silly) The resort where the couple were staying has to be the nicest SAR base we’ve yet to come across!

Teams stocked up with the necessary sweet and sugary goodies, were briefed and sent on their way, the main focus being the Waitangi mangrove walk (8Km return). The LP and his wife had apparently discussed this track earlier…

As the first teams were being ferried out – the LP emerged from the scrub and onto the golf course.

Suffering little more than minor cuts and being very wet (his insulin level was fine), he was quickly returned to a very relieved wife.


01:10 – First teams deployed

01:21 – LP located !

Apparently, he had only travelled about 1km along the track when he got caught out by nightfall, He tried to make his way back along the track in the dark until he spotted light glow through the trees (Possibly the Treaty House or Copthorne). Deciding to leave the track and head for the light, he made slow progress through the undergrowth, an estimated 200 –300m, before popping out onto the golf course.

CALLOUT Dec 05 Puketi Forest

It’s not often you are given the GPS coordinates of the lost party!

Four Czech tourists got misplaced in Puketi after entering a closed track and ended up following a trapping line instead.

The alarm was raised the following morning and was attended by Far North and Police SAR with first teams being deployed at around midday Sunday.

Through cellphone contact, the party was able to give identification numbers of nearby bags of traps dropped by Helicopter. A quick phone call to Puketi Forest Trust swiftly led to their location being identified and teams descended upon them from all directions.

Although they spent the night out with little in the way of shelter they did have a few warm clothes as well as some food and water. Fortunately the weather that night was dry and warm, 24Hrs later and it could have been a very different story as the weather closed in with some good solid falls of very cold rain.

Initially starting out with bad route information and a DOC brochure-style map (The entire Puketi Forest condensed to a 4” square!), it was easy to see how they had become further misled as the closed area they wandered into became a maze of trapping lines with markers and flagging tapes everywhere. The trappers’ tree tags labelled “HUT” that they followed wouldn’t have helped either.

As we stopped for a breather on the way out, they specifically took a photo of the “Track Closed” sign!

Everyone finally exited the forest a little after 1800Hrs with teams covering around 11km each.

They intended to continue to enjoy their visit to NZ, although they “have seen enough NZ bush for a while”.

CALLOUT Dec 05 Cape Reinga

Two members headed up to the Cape to join Whangarei Police SAR following discovery of missing despondents car in the carpark at the Cape Reinga lighthouse. With winds gusting to 50Kn, low cloud and rain, it was certainly not a good day for the views! One of the teams quickly spotted a significant clue at Te Kohatu Pt, some 5km from the vehicle. This clue very quickly led to discovery of the subject who was deceased. Due to the treacherous nature of the location (crumbling and unstable 40m cliff) the Cliff Rescue Team was called in from Whangarei while we all returned to Te Paki Station. After some hours, CRT arrived and so began an eventful journey across paddock, dune and precipitous chasms to the scene by tractor, quad and 4WD. Arriving at the scene at around 2230Hrs. CRT quickly discovered the lack of bombproof anchors close to the edge and had to wander some way inland to find something suitable. The deceased was quickly brought back onto level ground and blessed by a local Kaumatua before being transported to Te Paki. Finally left Te Paki at around 0200 and back in time for a couple of hours sleep before crawling out the door for work.

There were several factors to note here regarding behavioural characteristics:

The subject had driven a significant distance (from Auckland) followed by a 5km walk in order to reach his intended destination. The car had been parked skewed to the parking lines in the carpark – facing the headland concerned of which the subject had apparently talked about fondly. This chosen locality may also have partially determined the suicide method used.

STANDBY Dec 05 Umawera

Male lost in bush at Umawera – Self recovery prior to SAR activation

CALLOUT Nov 05 Paihia

Callout for an elderly male at Te Haumi at 0130Hrs. “Gordon” had gone for a walk after dinner that evening and had not returned by nightfall. In a short time reflex taskings were underway in the immediate vicinity of the house. Our wayward gent was located on the beach waiting for moonrise, just 70m from the house. The action was over so quick we condensed the brief and debrief into one session before dispersal back to our beds for an hour or so before heading off to work. A few amusing anecdotes that emerged from this include someone turning up after all the action (the operation was only in the order of 90 minutes) and wondering where everyone was; Someone had to phone their household to wake them up to let them back in and Gordon was foiled in the act of another attempted getaway after someone went back to look for something they had left behind – at least this time he had a torch!

STANDBY Nov 05 Opononi

Standby for a diver missing off Opononi while on a shore-based dive. Located safe a short time later by coastguard.

STANDBY Nov 05 Whangarei

Fletcher turbo prop aircraft, with a pilot and passenger on board reported overdue.

Was last heard from when it was 15 minutes out of Whangarei on a trip from Kaikohe. Several aircraft and helicopters were involved in the search with the wreckage being located in Pukenui Forest, on the outskirts of Whangarei. Unfortunately both persons were deceased. TAIC Report

STANDBY Oct 05 Doubtless Bay

Short standby on Halloween for the “Candy Kid” – an overdue trick-or-treater on the Karikari peninsula. Located after a few hours by Police at a friends house.

STANDBY July 05 Kaitaia

A woman and a seven-year-old girl went missing after their car ran out of fuel on Ninety Mile Beach on the evening of 30th June. Weather was cool with clear skies and little wind.

Concerns were raised after the pair had not returned from the TePaki stream area of 90 mile beach, where they were last sighted at 1100hrs on the 30th.

Kaitaia Police commenced searching for the two missing persons that evening.

Two cars were being driven on the beach Thursday night when one ran short of fuel and headed back.

The other car carried on but failed to reach its destination by 11pm and the alarm was raised.

The police search found the abandoned car stuck in sand near Hukatere at around 0100Hrs, but the tide had been through it and there was no sign of the two occupants.

Police started some searches up through the forestry tracks and driving along the beach but didn’t find anyone that night. SAR were mobilised on Friday morning.

Both parties found cold, tired and hungry, but safe and well walking south on the beach just north of Waipapakauri Ramp.

Appears they had headed into the dunes at nightfall, and had seen the searchers spotlights in the distance the previous night, but the woman had not tried to make contact as she didn’t want to leave the child.

CALLOUT March 05 Warawara Forest.

Local farmer in his 40’s along with two sons 12 & 17 had entered Warawara forest at Panguru with intention of crossing via Moumoukai – Weka route. Last contact was by cellphone stating he could see the rugby grounds at Lower Waihou, and he would be out in about 2½ Hrs.

The party were generally well equipped, with the exception of food for which they had only allowed for 24Hrs. FNSAR attended, and joined Whangarei Police SAR as well as local DOC workers and the Police Eagle chopper.

On arrival at ICP, possible smoke was reported high on the slopes of Te Reinga hill and investigation of this was the first tasking.

Terrain could best be described as ranging from steep to really steep, with knife-edge ridges that only those who attended the earlier Warawara Kauri Hunt Tramp can appreciate!

Hats go off to those diligent souls who were entrusted with stretcher transportation, a wide variety of innovative, and novel, methods were tried – 100% of which didn’t really work satisfactorily.

An early lunch was had at the head of the valley on what must be the only flat area in there, prior to the final ascent (without trying to fall off the ridges). Finally, at approximately 2.5km from (and 500m above) base, word came through that our wayward trio had walked out at Mitimiti.

A quick rest was in order before heading down again.

The LP graciously dropped in after everyone had thrashed their way back down the valley, in order to shake hands and remind us he wasn’t lost, merely delayed. After a short rundown on what had happened he disappeared off to the Panguru pub to retell the saga.

STANDBY Feb 05 Whangaroa

A 37 year old female went missing while tramping on Taratara rock. Local Police from Kaeo and Kerikeri attended and SAR were mobilised. The woman walked out under her own steam about 3Hrs after being reported missing.

CALLOUT Feb 05 Kaikohe.

Eighty-something male Parkinsons Disease sufferer was noticed to be misplaced when due for his 1pm medication. Whangarei Police SAR were heading up and we were called out. Just when the cream of FNSAR were having the time of their lives over on the West Coast. Many phones went unanswered as Pete (bravely ignoring the searing pain that prevented him from joining the FNSAR Team-Building trip) tried to rake up anyone for an urban search. Fortunately the wayward octogenarian was found during this process and the FNSAR response (both of us) could stand down.


Two elderly men had gone eeling the day before in a stream accessed through bush. Walking back up the ridge to the vehicle they became separated and only one person made it back to the road. Family spent the evening searching with no luck. The next morning police teams deployed prior to FNSAR arriving but no sign was found.  Lost party walked into the teams preparing to be tasked having been sitting around a bend in the road for sometime having a smoke – He thought all of us with the fluoro vests were surveyors!

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