Unneeded search sparks reminder

By Mike Barrington

An unnecessary search and rescue callout on New Year's Day has police urging holidaymakers to advise others before starting hiking or boating expeditions which could arouse fears for their safety.

Police were alerted at 9.30pm on Tuesday when a Whangarei couple in their 50s, who had left Spirits Bay in two kayaks at 8.30 that morning, had not returned.

Whangarei police search and rescue incident controller Sergeant Neil Pennington said that at first light yesterday a Coastguard fixed wing aircraft left Kerikeri with police on board to search the coastline at Spirits Bay. After hunting for an hour, the pair were seen on the beach about 5km east of where they had launched their kayaks.

Department of Conservation (DoC) staff and volunteer searchers from the DoC campground at Spirits Bay, who were out in an inflatable rescue boat, contacted the couple, who had intended staying out overnight and were unaware people were looking for them.

Mr Pennington said that if the pair had advised DoC staff at the camp ground, where they left their car, of their intentions then the search involving up to 24 people would not have been needed.

"Also, because we didn't know where they were going we had to search from Cape Maria van Diemen to the northern entrance of the Parengarenga Harbour," he said.

"If we knew where they were heading we could have halved the search area."

Mr Pennington said it was "a little bit frustrating" to organise a search which was not required.

"If people are genuinely lost we will go all-out to find them. But people should tell their families, friends or the authorities what they are doing before going into remote areas where there will be worries about them being late back or not reappearing," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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