Police are urging runners to take cellphones with them after an experienced multisport athlete became lost in bush and was forced to hunker down overnight with no way of making contact with family or rescuers searching for him.

The 40-year-old Whangarei man managed to walk out of the bush with a few scratches and wasp stings just as rescuers were about to resume their search about 8am on Friday.

Head of the Northland Police Search and Rescue Squad, Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe, said the incident highlighted the need for runners or anyone heading into the bush to be better prepared and have some form of communication, like a mobile phone.

The alarm was raised by the man's wife about 9pm on Thursday when he failed to return home after a run he had estimated would take him three hours in the Pukenui Forest on Western Hills Drive.


Police were told the man was wearing only running clothes, had no water, lights or form of communication with him.

Mr Metcalfe said the Police Search and rescue team, plus Landsar volunteers from Whangarei, searched for the man in Pukenui forest.

The teams searched until 5am on Friday before taking a break.

Just before daybreak more Landsar volunteers from the Far North were brought in. As they gathered at Whangarei police station and were being briefed, the man came out of the bush near the Whau Valley dam.

Mr Metcalfe said the tracks in the Pukenui Forest were not clearly marked and the man had run off a marked track and become disoriented.

The man told police he had decided to stay put overnight, and while he had heard rescuers whistles they were too far away to hear him. He had waited until light and followed a stream out of the bush which lead to the Whau Valley dam.

"There are some lessons to be learnt here," Mr Metcalfe said. "It was the first time he had gone into the bush on these tracks and he left it too late at night. It's pretty unforgiving country in there if you get off the tracks.

"He had no cellphone, no water, no light and no extra clothing and he was going on a three-hour run. It's essential to take some form of communication heading into the bush."

Safety Tips

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council encourages the use of The Outdoor Safety Code across all outdoor activities, sports and recreations. Watch the Outdoor Safety Code video below: