Farmers are being asked to check remote sheds amid a puzzling search for a Bay man whose van plunged off the Kaimai Range summit on Tuesday.
Te Paewhenua "Bobby" Roberts, 53, of Te Puke, was driving a Fulton Hogan van when it crashed through a stone wall at 8.30am.
The smashed van was pulled up the cliff but Mr Roberts has not been found and authorities now believe there is a strong possibility he survived the crash.
He is a solid Maori, about 1.6m tall, with a moustache and was last seen wearing dark Fulton Hogan overalls, work boots and a beanie.
Today police appealed to rural landowners to check their farm buildings and for motorists who may have seen Mr Roberts after the crash to come forward.
"It is possible he may have walked away from the crash," Senior Sergeant Ross Ardern of Matamata-Piako police said. "He may be wandering concussed or injured, either along the road or on farmland."
The van plunged nearly 25m before hitting a slope and coming to rest about 250m down a cliff face.
Police initially thought he was lying under debris dislodged by the van but now say he may have survived the crash and left the area.
Yesterday five members of Mr Roberts' family joined the 55-strong search and rescue team.
Tauranga's Bruce Sandford said the terrain covered by the teams was very steep; some covered by thick bush.
Searching the path where the van had crashed through the bush was made more difficult by the huge volume of trash dumped over the bank. The teams have searched an area of the mountainside estimated to be about four kilometres square.
Nearby rivers have also been searched.
Farm checks for missing Kaimai crash man
By Kristin Edge
10:00 AM Thursday Dec 2, 2004