A search and rescue operation in dire conditions has prompted Northland police to remind anyone heading into the bush to be prepared with warm clothing, food and a means of communication as a bare minimum.

Three Whangārei men entered the bush near Te Piiti Marae at Ōmanaia, in South Hokianga, last Thursday morning with plans to go hunting.

When family members hadn't heard from them by 6.30pm they alerted police.

Constable Jim Adamson, of Northland police Search and Rescue, said four officers and 13 Far North LandSAR volunteers started searching at midnight in heavy rain and gusty winds. The terrain was steep in places and covered in thick, scrubby bush.


The search was halted at 5am but resumed at daybreak on Friday with five police from Whangārei and Rawene and 10 volunteers.

Around 11am, however, the men emerged from the bush and were found by workers repairing power lines damaged in the storm. The workers took the men, who were cold but unharmed, back to their vehicle.

Adamson said the men were ill-prepared for even a day walk with light clothing and no food, GPS or means of communication. One of the men had a cellphone but the batteries went flat.

At the ''absolute minimum'' anyone heading into the bush should have warm clothing, food, a torch and reliable communication, and let someone know where they were going. Ideally they should also bring GPS or an emergency locator beacon, he said.

It is understood the men declined to talk to police after initially agreeing to stop at Kaikohe station on their way home. At last report they were heading to Ngāwhā hot springs to warm up.