The family of a tramper who has been missing for a week say they are caught between grieving and holding out hope he will be found alive.
Darren Myers, 49, was reported missing after he failed to return home from a hike through the Northern Crossing in the Tararua Ranges on Saturday.
A full ground and aerial search resumed today after being scaled back earlier in the week because of poor weather conditions.
"Every day is D-Day for us," said Myers' brother-in-law Duncan Styles.
"But as you get to the end of each day and there's no news then D-Day never comes."
The family were reluctant to start thinking about life without Myers, Styles said.
"It's the big unknown. What do you do? It's like a grieving thing that we are going through but we are staying positive that Darren will be found alive so we may as well carry on.
"We definitely just don't want to plan what life would be like if it doesn't work out."
Myers, an experienced tramper, set off on the hike last Tuesday. His last contact was a text message to his wife Kim Shaw last Thursday. Styles said it was a "tongue-in-cheek" message about how small his tramping hut was and that his wife, a "glamper", probably would not like it.
Myers and Shaw moved to Wellington from Sawbridgeworth, England, 18 months ago. They had fallen in love with New Zealand on previous visits and planned to stay permanently.
Police Dive Squad to join search for missing boatie
Search tactics assessed on missing Tararua tramper Darren Myers
Styles said his brother-in-law was an experienced tramper who had done multi-day expeditions in several countries.
"He's always keen to get the most out of life," said Styles. "But he's not a risk taker ... He's always very careful about preparing properly and making sure he's in the right place."
Police said this morning that search - which included Air Force helicopters - would focus on areas where Myers may have departed from his planned route. They said weather conditions were still changeable and it was snowing on the ranges.
Around 50 people have been involved in the search efforts each day since, including; Police, NZDF staff and LandSAR volunteers.
No sign of him has been found at huts where he might have stayed, although footprints were seen on Monday.
Weather conditions in the ranges this week have seen wind-chill temperatures drop to -10C, gales about the tops of the ranges and snow down to 900m.
High water levels and bad weather meant another search for a missing boatie on Lake Hauroko - reported to be 65-year-old Michael Goodson - was suspended on Wednesday.
Goodson and Myers join a growing list of search and rescue missions across the country this year, and more than half a dozen people who have gone missing and are yet to be found.
Goodson and a woman - believed to be 69-year-old Rosemary Spiewak - were reported missing on Friday.
Eighteen people were involved in an extensive search on the lake and Wairaurahiri River during the weekend.
The woman's body was found at the southern end of the lake on the first day, and police recovered debris believed to be from the missing boat on Sunday.
Despite scouring the shoreline, search efforts have failed to find the man.
Yesterday, police said there would be no active search due to the water level on the lake remaining high.
"The team will reassess options when conditions allow," they said.
The complicated searches come within a busy six months for search and rescue staff.
Since the beginning of the year, the Herald has reported on close to 20 extended missing person searches - spanning from two days, to more than 12 weeks.
Of these searches, nine other people are still missing or bodies have not been found, including;
• Daniel Skeggs , 29, who was swept away during a jet boating accident on the Taramakau River on May 17. His body was never recovered.
• Pesamino Tovio , 34, known as Mino, who drowned at Bethells Beach on March 22. His body was never found.
• Jessica Boyce , 27, who has not been seen since March 19. Her vehicle was found at Lake Chalice, in Mt Richmond Forest.
• Guoquan Wu , 22, known as Laurence, who hasn't been seen since March 10. His vehicle was found at Piha Beach car park two days later.
• Bridget Simmonds , 42, who was last seen by family in Whangarei on February 23.
• Shaun Orchard, 23, and Hendrix Kamo, 28 , who went missing off rocks at Slope Point, near Bluff, on January 27. Their bodies were never found.
Suspending a search: 'The most difficult decision'
LandSAR chief executive Carl McOnie said not finding a person and deciding to suspend a search is one of the most difficult and potentially controversial decisions.
"In suspending a search there is a number of questions that need to be answered first, including; are we searching for a living person or someone who is most likely deceased - what are the chances of the subject still being alive.
"Have all search areas been searched and researched, and how successful was this, and is the searchers safety now a paramount concern. For example; there might be some horrific weather where you can't put people into that environment.
"You also look at family or political pressures and whether it's influencing the operation, whether evidence points to the fact the subject is no longer in the search area, whether there is answered clues, and whether search resources are depleted."
McOnie said none of these factors sit in isolation, "They all have to be considered before a search is suspended. Once a search is suspended, it becomes a cold case with police.
"If some new information was to come up then they would re-launch that search."
The NZ Police manage nearly 2000 land and marine search and rescue incidents each year.
LandSAR are involved in 40 per cent of the police search and rescue operations.
Last year, that saw them assist in 495 operations, involving 678 lives. Of that total, 51 were found to be dead.
McOnie said the volunteer organisation has 3500 volunteers, spread across 60 groups and 11 specialist teams.
"The volunteers are hugely motivated by doing good for the community, and the altruistic purpose of getting out there and giving back," he said.
"Volunteers are happy to get someone alive and back to their families, but they are just as motivated to get a body out as well because it does bring closure to the family.
"If you talk to them they will say things like 'I would hope someone would come looking for me if I was in that situation'. They are amazing people."
'Grief is one of the hardest things'
Val Leveson, a counsellor at Grief Centre, said dealing with a missing loved one is "an incredibly traumatic thing to go through".
"Grief is one of the hardest things that we experience anyway, particularly when it's someone close who we love dearly.
"When it's a grief where you actually don't know whether the person is alive or dead, it becomes much harder in many ways as there is always that not knowing," she said.
Leveson said when someone has been missing for an extended period of time, often people struggle with wanting to grieve or maintain hope.
"Sometimes if we are holding on to hope it can be incredibly tormenting," she said.
"Because you might think you need to grieve, but then there is the question of how can you stop hoping that they are out there and will be back."
Leveson said the sentiment of closure can also become confusing.
"When a body is found people have the closure of knowing the person is dead. They can then go through the ritual of a funeral and really let themselves grieve."
Leveson said a big part of grief is this ritual.
"One thing when a body is not found, is that you don't have a funeral or that ritual around it.
"Although the body hasn't been found, it's still pretty important to have a memorial service to create that ritual – so there is a little bit of a goodbye process. This can be very healing and helpful."
Leveson's other tips for dealing with grief include keeping to a routine, and speaking with someone outside the situation.
"It's important to make sure you are taking care of basics; so eating, exercising and showering - that you have a daily routine going.
"For some people going to the doctor and getting sleep or anxiety medication helps, or talking to a counsellor so you can really work through your feelings. Often people don't want to scare each other with their thoughts or worst fears, so they need to go to a professional and really process what is going on.
"Another thing that is really important is community and family support."
- additional reporting Isaac Davison
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