Missing pair found near dam

A couple who lost their way while travelling from Wellington to Palmerston North have been found.

Craig Nichols, 35, and Louise Owen, 30, travelled for about an hour and a half north from Wellington yesterday, but became disoriented while driving at night, took a wrong turn and ran out of petrol.

The pair were found about 3.30 today, after spending more than 18 hours lost in Horowhenua back country.

Inspector Brett Calkin said the couple were picked up by some 4WD off-roaders wandering near their vehicle, located near a dam on Mangahoe Rd, east of Shannon, and taken to the tiny township of Mangaore, where a patrol car found them.

They appeared to be in good health but were checked by St John Ambulance staff. 

Mr Calkin said Ms Owen contacted police about 8.50pm yesterday, and was able to tell them they turned off the main road, drove past a quarry into a forest area and could see houses from where they stopped on a rural road.

There was a large ''aerial'' on the hill nearby and they could see effluent ponds. 

They also believed they were near a Maori reserve or marae.

Mr Calkin said the woman told them they had been there for some time before contacting police, and they were not able to get as much detail about their surroundings before the batteries in both of their cell phones went flat.

In addition to their predicament, Ms Owen told police communications her partner had a broken foot and had suffered a head injury in the past, and she herself had a medical condition that made her vague.

Police were able to narrow down their position to within 30km of Palmerston North using information gathered from the cell tower used by their phone.

Police patrol cars out last night had checked a few places, but nowhere had been ruled out, Mr Calkin said.

They believe the couple were closer to the coast than the hills, and that they may have been driving longer than an hour and a half.

The couple had been sent text messages by police in the hopes they might be able to receive them, but they'd had no reply, Mr Calkin said.

Police had spoken to the couples' families.

Given the description of their location, Mr Calkin said they believed the pair would be found by the public, and police were not concerned for their safety.

Search and Rescue was not currently conducting a ground search, but that may be re-evaluated later in the day.

Police going about their everyday duties had been advised to look out for the couple's vehicle, a white Nissan Pulsar hatchback, registration number WX6833.

Police would like to hear from anyone who recognises the description of the area, and for people to keep an eye out for the missing couple's vehicle and assist them if they did come across them.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Palmerston North Police on 351 3600.

Manawatu Standard