A team of 25 including police, volunteers, a specialist rescue dog and a drone were used during the search for an elderly man who went missing in bush near Whangārei.

The 78-year-old went walking from Maunu and then became lost on Sunday.

He eventually managed to find his way out safely, a bit dehydrated, more embarrassed, but not before a large scale search was sparked.

Northland police Search and Rescue controller Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said the incident highlighted the reason why police and health officials had put out repeated messages telling people not to go tramping, swimming or putting themselves in a position where they might need rescuing.


Kiwis had previously been advised not to take part in a number of outdoor activities during the lockdown period but that was made official in fresh laws released on the Government's Covid-19 website last week.

A notice to all persons in New Zealand said people were not permitted to leave home to hunt, tramp, swim, take part in other water-based activities, such as surfing and boating, or do any activity exposing participants to danger or that may require help from rescue services.

"People can go out walking but if you are let someone know you are going and let them know where you are going. The guidelines are clear and this is exactly why they have stopped people from tramping," Metcalfe said.

While the man was fit he had failed to tell anyone where he was going, except that he would be back in two hours, and was not prepared to hike in the bush as he was only wearing t-shirt and shorts.

The alarm was raised by a family member about 2pm when he had not returned to the Maunu property where he had been staying since lockdown.

Metcalfe said with no idea where the man had intended to walk there had been six search teams, a specialist dog and a team using a drone deployed and an extensive search of the area carried out.

Land SAR volunteers had door knocked houses in the area but it was about 6pm when a member of the public on Te Hape Rd told nearby police they had spotted a man looking a bit "dishevelled".

It turned out he had gone to the museum and then ventured into bush where he had become disoriented. Metcalfe said the man had followed a creek, then a fence line before managing to come out safely.


"He was very thankful to be found. He was worried he wasn't going to get out," Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe reminded the public that any exercise must be limited to their local area.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website