Extensive searches of dense forest near the Nelson ranges have failed to uncover any sign of a missing helicopter and its pilot.

Four helicopters and five ground teams have resumed searching for the helicopter, missing since Tuesday morning, in a concentrated area of Kahurangi National Park 35km west of Motueka.

Damian Webster was flying from Karamea on the West Coast to Nelson on a maintenance mission when his Robinson 44 disappeared.

High winds that prevented helicopters searching yesterday afternoon had died down and conditions for aerial searching were good, Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand search and rescue controller Neville Blakemore said.


Twenty searchers were operating in extremely difficult conditions in steep, bush-covered terrain. A search and rescue dog would not now be used due to a 1080 drop in the area, Mr Blakemore said.

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.

The focus for the day was completing the detailed search of the area around the helicopter's last known position, he said.

"After the frustration of yesterday's high winds, conditions in the air are excellent and all four helicopters are conducting very low altitude, slow-speed searching of the bush canopy.

"Things are more challenging on the ground and the teams are conducting contour searches, following the lay of the land. The area is covered in very steep ravines so it is very hard work, but the people on the ground are well-trained and committed to a comprehensive search."

The aircraft was believed to belong to Helicopter Charter Karamea.

Two helicopters left Karamea about 8am Monday to fly to Nelson. The pilot of the second helicopter raised the alarm about noon that day when Mr Webster failed to arrive in Nelson.