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90 years helping the lost, the missing and the injured


Ōtautahi – Today is 90 years since the New Zealand Land Search and Rescue organisation was set up to save lives in  Aotearoa.

Land Search and Rescue is a dedicated team of highly trained volunteers who respond to calls for assistance in locating lost, missing, and injured persons.

Providing search and rescue services, 24/7, 365 days of the year, via the police and Rescue Coordination Centre NZ.

From its early beginnings, the organisation has saved thousands of lives and has grown to cover Aotearoa. Just as the popularity and capability of outdoor adventure spread and grew, so did the volunteers, capabilities, funding, and staff support of Land Search and Rescue.

90 years on, a large part of the organisation’s beginnings can be largely attributed to the Sutch search in April 1933.

The search that resulted after a party of four trampers went missing for two weeks before being found. In the process the missing party had traversed almost the entire length of the Waiohine Valley in the Tararua Ranges.

This 1933 search included multiple days of effort from up to 200 people, volunteers who came from multiple groups, supported by radio operators and aircraft.

New Zealand Land Search and Rescue operated under this structure for some 70 years until becoming an incorporated society in 1994.

A national committee oversaw the organisation. They included a chairperson, treasurer, five standing sub-committee chairs plus representatives from the seven volunteer regions, police, federated mountain clubs and the department of conservation. individuals from these organisations, plus people from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and the New Zealand speleological society comprised the member base.

The dedication and selflessness of land search and rescue volunteers never fails to impress, Land Search and Rescue chief executive Carl McOnie says.

Their volunteers willingly put themselves in challenging and extreme situations to help others, often sacrificing their own time and comfort without expecting anything in return.

Candice Tovey is a current member of staff, as well as a volunteer for Wakatipu Land Search and Rescue.

When she joined as a field volunteer 11 years ago, she wanted to give back to the community.

Chair of New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Graham Pomeroy says the ethos across the organisation hasn’t changed since the 1930s.

“It is to support our dedicated teams of volunteers with the very best training and equipment. To be at the forefront and to embrace the latest technology and innovation. And to never forget, everything we do is driven by achieving the best outcome for the lost, the missing and the injured.”