An injured Brit who spent two freezing nights under ferns in rugged West Coast bush says he survived on a carefully rationed apple.

Holidaymaker Steven Bennett is today recovering in Grey Base Hospital after he was winched from near a stream by rescue helicopter in the Paparoa National Park last night. He had injured his back and wrist after he fell down a waterfall.

Bennett spent two nights in the open in some of this year's coldest temperatures. He kept warm thanks to his ski jacket and by using fern fronds to cover his body.

He said he knew searchers were looking for him from day one but he had dropped his phone so there was no way of signalling for help.

Lying in the cold, remote bush watching choppers fly overhead Bennett battled to keep hope he would be found alive.


"I just told myself to keep going and stick it out. I could see the helicopters flying by so I hoped one of them would spot me."

Bennett said he had reached the summit of Mt Bovis when he slipped.

"I was on a track and when I was at the top of the mountain I slipped down and couldn't find the route again. I ended up falling down a waterfall and I got a few injuries from that."

He said he battled freezing temperatures during his two nights in the open.

"It did get really cold. I could feel my legs shaking," he said.

He drank water from a nearby stream. Unsure when help would eventually come he rationed the one piece of sustenance he had on him - an apple.

"I was just having little chunks of it and not finishing it off as you normally would an apple," he said.

Bennett told Radio New Zealand it was overwhelming when a rescuer finally arrived and tapped him on the shoulder.

He was yet to speak with his family who are headed to his bedside but said there would be a big reunion.

He was unlikely to go back into the New Zealand wilderness again.