3 Jun 2019

Search called off for missing boatie in Fiordland

7:42 pm on 3 June 2019

Police are waiting for water levels to recede before they resume a search for a boatie missing in Fiordland National Park.

Reflection of snowy mountains in Lake Hauroko in the Southern Scenic Route, New Zealand

The weather has cleared today at Lake Hauroko (stock picture). Photo: 123RF

Invercargill police have been looking for a boat and its two occupants reported missing on Lake Hauroko on Friday and found a body of one of the people near Teal Bay on Saturday.

Local volunteers and a jetboat company have been helping the police search and rescue team.

In sleety and snowy conditions they recovered the body on Saturday, and some debris from the boat was found yesterday - but the police could not comment on what the debris was.

This morning, the search operation was put on hold until further notice and police said they are waiting for the unusually high lake levels to drop, which it is forecast to do over the next two days.

Wairaurahiri Jet operator Johan Groters said they have worked through sleet and snow to extensively search the lake and adjoining Wairaurahiri River. While the weather has cleared to blue skies today, the river levels remain very high, which makes it more difficult to search.

"But it should go down over the next couple of days, so then it might be more suitable," he said.

"My understanding is the police are going to regroup and decide what they are going to do from now."

Mr Groters said the lake, which is the deepest in the country at 462 metres, is quite sizeable and very moody.

"Weather conditions can be very changeable and of course it's very cold ... people really need to be well prepared to go there," he said.

Southland district councillor George Harpur was also very familiar with the lake and its up and down conditions. About 30 years ago he said three people and a boat went missing and while their dog was recovered, their bodies and boat have never been found.

"Lake Hauroko is a long, skinny lake - it's about 28km long, not very wide and it's in between hills and attracts quite a bit of wind. Some days it's very, very, calm - some days it can get very rough. And it can go from calm to rough in a very short time," he said.

"You've just got to respect the water, respect the weather conditions, and use your common sense and judgement. You're in there, normally, with not a lot of other boats on the lake. So, I wouldn't say you take your life at risk, but you certainly need to look after it and act accordingly."

In a statement today, the police said the search and rescue team will be assessing what their next steps will be.