Police missed opportunities in the search for two men who fled from police and were later found dead in Tongariro National Park, an investigation has found.
Matiu Ngaronoa, 26, and Vincent Taurima, 21, died after getting lost in the bush in the park in August 2017.
A report released by the Independent Police Conduct Authority today found although the search for the missing men had been run "competently and professionally", there were "oversights", "missed opportunities" and areas for improvement.
One point of note was one of the men's parents' 111 calls were incorrectly coded, which "delayed critical action" by Search and Rescue teams.
The summary of events outlined in the report showed that the incident started about 3pm on August 12, 2017, when Ngaronoa and Taurima were involved in a police chase on State Highway 1 south of Desert Rd between Waiouru and Tūrangi.
Taurima was a patched Mongrel Mob member from Palmerston North who was on electronically monitored bail after being charged with aggravated robbery but cut off his bail bracelet and began driving a stolen Mazda with Ngaronoa towards Gisborne.
He arranged to meet with his ex-partner, who was at Whakapapa ski field with their son,
in Tūrangi en route.
Taurima and Ngaronoa were driving at speed on the Desert Rd in the car with a stolen licence plate when an officer spotted them.
A short pursuit began, of which Ngaronoa took short videos. The pair appeared "excited" while speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road, according to the finding.
They had a police radio scanner on them to listen to police radio transmissions and hear where officers might set up roadblocks.
Police abandoned the pursuit before establishing the fleeing car had been stolen.
The men turned off Desert Rd, and abandoned the car on a track leading off Tree Trunk Gorge Rd before heading into Tongariro National Park.
They ran into the bush as Taurima thought police were chasing him and he did not want to be returned to prison.
About 4.30pm, a hunter called police after finding the abandoned car and tracked footprints heading into the bush but did not find anything.
While in the bush, Taurima contacted his ex-partner by cellphone to say he and
Ngaronoa were lost, wet and cold.
She and Taurima's father, a senior Mongrel Mob member, drove into the area and maintained contact with the men while attempting to guide them out of the bush.
She beeped her horn and flashed her lights into the bush to try and help guide them out.
Taurima and his father decided against calling police for help at the time as Taurima did not want to be taken into custody. He told them he would wait by the fire.
About 6.30am, Taurima's father went to the Tūrangi Police station to get help from police and dialled 111 as the station was not yet manned. The call was incorrectly coded as an information call.
Other calls from Taurima's mother that morning were also coded incorrectly.
Between 10am and 11am police received three 111 calls from the men themselves, stating they had hypothermia and were unable to move.
Taurima told the call-taker his skin was turning purple, he had taken his clothes off as they made him feel colder and he could not move his legs or feel his fingers or toes.
He said their phones were dying and Ngaronoa had a "heavy concussion" and had a seizure after hitting his head after a fall in the bush the day before.
A search and rescue operation was immediately launched and four police searchers and a police dog and handler went into the bush to search that afternoon.
Police used cellphone technology to determine a search area close to where one of the men's 111 calls was thought to have originated.
Despite hearing voices and sighting two possible objects using a helicopter-based infra-red camera, the men were not found by the time searching ended about 11pm that day.
The cold weather had set in and temperatures were close to freezing.
Police and Land Search and Rescue volunteers searched for 13 more days in difficult terrain, thick bush and cold temperatures.
Forty-nine police staff, 175 LandSAR and 22 New Zealand Defence Force personnel and six dogs were involved in the search.
The Taurima whānau and Ngaronoa whānau stayed in the Tūrangi area, with Taurima's father calling upon Mongrel Mob members to support him during the search.
The Mongrel Mob presence during the first week of the search was significant.
On September 9, after a 14-day search and rescue operation, the men's bodies were found near a tributary of the Mangatawai Stream about 2km in a straight line from the abandoned car.
Both Ngaronoa's and Taurima's whānau raised serious concerns about the delay in starting the search, a lack of action based on the fact the men were Māori and one had known gang links and poor police decision-making and communication.
The report found there was no evidence of the ethnicity or backgrounds of the men influencing the thoroughness of the search.
However, police took into consideration the men may have been armed and Taurima, in particular, may have been a threat due to previous convictions and gang relations.
For this reason, the call was made not to send civilian searchers into the bush. The authority considers that deploying SAR-trained, sworn, armed officers to search was a justifiable response.
Following Operation Mangatawai, police have implemented several measures including updating the operating procedures for SAR jobs to include specific questions in relation to a lost person.
Police also acknowledge the formal identification process of the two men was delayed.
In a written statement today, Bay of Plenty District Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said police staff acted appropriately in the challenging conditions but acknowledged there were some areas for improvement.
"Our thoughts remain with the whānau of the deceased".
Police accepted the report findings.