High winds have grounded helicopters searching for a chopper missing in the Nelson region today but the search will continue tomorrow during calmer conditions.

Damian Webster was flying one of two helicopters from Karamea on the West Coast to Nelson on a maintenance mission yesterday when his Robinson 44 was lost over the Kahurangi National Park.

The aircraft was believed to belong to Helicopter Charter Karamea.

No sign had yet been found of the helicopter, Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand search and rescue controller Greg Johnston said.


Four helicopters were involved in the search today in steep, bush-clad area 35km west of Motueka, with five land search and rescue teams involving 20 people.

Strong winds later in the day prevented the helicopters searching effectively and the aerial search was suspended in the late afternoon, Mr Johnston said.

They would return to the area tomorrow with the land SAR teams camping overnight in the search area.

No emergency beacon signal had been detected from the missing helicopter and the search area was based on information from the helicopter's tracking system.

The area being searched was around 5km in each direction from that point.

Tomorrow's forecast was promising, Mr Johnston said.

"The forecast is for the wind to drop which will hopefully allow the helicopters to maintain the low altitude, low speed flight needed to search effectively in this sort of terrain," he said.

The missing helicopter and another chopper left Karamea about 8am yesterday to fly to Nelson for maintenance work on one of the aircraft.

The second helicopter pilot raised the alarm about midday when the missing helicopter failed to arrive in Nelson.