A possum trapper was lost in the remote, heavily forested Waima Ranges for 22 hours before being found by a rescue party.

He was found safe and well at about 2.50pm yesterday and walked out of the ranges with a police and civilian search and rescue (SAR) team who had entered the challenging search zone at about 9am.

The man was able to phone police on Wednesday evening after he and another Department of Conservation (DoC) contractor became separated in the steep, rugged ranges in the south Hokianga.

The area is in the district overseen by DoC's Kauri Coast office.


''It's good news, he's safe, they're on their way out,'' operations manager Stephen Soole said yesterday afternoon.

The two pest control contractors had been laying a trap line in the Waima Forest's Kokako Block, as part of a programme to protect one of the country's biggest populations of the rare kokako songbird.

They were expected back out around 5pm on Wednesday, but by then one had made it to a tramping hut in the area and the other was unable to find his way there.

As darkness and rain closed in, he managed to find a high point where his cellphone worked to notify police of the situation.

As he was well equipped with warm clothing and outdoor gear, he was told to stay put overnight.

Because of nightfall, the search and rescue team could not enter the remote territory until yesterday morning. The team accessed the forest from Waimamaku, west of the Waima Ranges and 15km south east of Opononi, at about 9am.

The search covered part of the 27km long historic Waoku Coach Road through highland plateau and dense forest between the small settlements of Waima to the north and Tutamoe to the south.

The area is one of Northland's highest points and, adjoining the Waipoua and the Matarau forests, the Waima is part of the largest remaining continuous tract of native forests in Northland.


It is understood the rescued man is from Whirinaki in the South Hokianga. The walk out of the forest was expected to take up to two hours.