Four-year-old Hailey Alver gave her rescuers a big smile and asked for "mum" when they found her cold and standing by a tree in a Northland pine forest last night.
Hailey was missing for a harrowing six hours before she was located by searchers in forest 600 metres from her Dargaville home, around 8.45pm.
Search and Rescue members were scouring the dense forest when they heard small noises, which led them to Hailey who was standing by a pine tree.
"One of the rescuers picked her up for a big cuddle. She was very cold but smiling, and kept asking for her mum," says Sergeant Craig Curnow, who worked on the search last night. He and Constable Wendy McDermott were the Police liaisons for Hailey's family last night.
More than 40 people joined the search for Hailey, including Police Search and Rescue and volunteers from Land SAR, NZ Fire Service staff, two helicopters and a number of locals from the community.
Hailey went missing in Arapohue near Dargaville around 2.40pm yesterday after slipping out of her house and disappearing. Within minutes, Police received a call from her parents and a search was launched.
"We threw everything we had at finding Hailey. It wasn't just emergency services, the local community helped and people were leaving work early, and getting on quad bikes or walking alongside us with torches to find her," says Sergeant Curnow.
"It appeared that Hailey had decided to go for a wander. We were relieved to reach her before the weather took a turn for the worse.
"This was a great outcome and to be able to return a child safe to their parents is one of the reasons why we join the Police," says Sergeant Curnow.
Hailey's mum, Kerry Turek, says Hailey is well and fully recovered.
"I want to say a big thank you to all who came out yesterday to help us find Hailey. She is safe and well now and, like any young child, has moved on quickly from the experience," says Ms Turek.
"I was really impressed by how organised and professional all the staff were who helped us with the search for Hailey.
"I'd like to say to other parents that if you're ever in this situation then don't hesitate, call Police right away."