28 May 2020

Trampers urged to always carry locator beacons

3:52 pm on 28 May 2020

The harbourmaster for the Wakatipu region says the rescue of two trampers is a reminder that everyone should carry a personal locator beacon in remote areas.

A tramper in the Paparoa Range, above Westport, walks between the the Paparoa Wilderness Area and an area of stewardship land. Conservation land makes up about 84 percent of the West Coast's total area.

Photo: Supplied / Copyright : Neil Silverwood

Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor were found alive and well yesterday, after an extensive search spanning more than a week in the rugged Kahurangi National Park.

Queenstown Lakes District long-serving harbourmaster Marty Black, who has been involved in his fair share of search and rescue operations over the years said if the pair had been carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB), "the whole thing would have been over straight away".

Black said he even has one himself that he carries on him 90 percent of the time "because I end up in some funny places".

"I just press a button and a helicopter comes to rescue me. What a great thing and think of the money that could have been saved in this instance and of course the people that have put themselves at risk looking for them."

He said the cost of a PLB is not that expensive.

Black lives in Queenstown but is from Canterbury and owns a home near Culverden, in a remote area with no cellphone coverage and whenever there he also has one on him.

"They're around $300 or you can hire them for $20 a day, the cost is nothing."

He said it doesn't matter whether people were on a jet boat on a river or on hike, if they were in trouble time was of the essence and a PLB would alert search and rescue, avoiding long costly searches that put others at risk.

"It's great to see the outcome for these guys, it's amazing they survived, but if they had a PLB it could have been over in a day or less."

He said the cost for the search could easily be around the $100,000 mark.

"Some of the things we're involved in over the years, especially down the Kawarau [river], by the time we put the search and rescue guys out in the dark for a few hours that's a bill of $1000.

"Anyone going out anywhere like this, for Pete's sake, take a PLB."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs