A mother has praised the police response to a parent's worst nightmare after her 3-year-old son disappeared from their semi-rural property.
Sebastian (Sebi) Clark, wandered off on the 1.6-hectare block, near Mapua, yesterday sparking a full police search which found the toddler safe and well after 90 minutes his family will never forget.
In a letter of thanks to police, mother Janey Clark said she had been working on the front deck of their home when Sebi wandered off towards the back of her garden.
She dashed into the house for a glass of water, before heading after him. "He wasn't out of my sight for longer than three to four minutes. When I got to where I had seen him he had disappeared.
"I raced around our property inside and out, in ever-increasing circles and with ever-increasing levels of panic. I yelled out to my husband [Jonny], who was working inside, and he came out to help me search.
"After 10 to 15 minutes I began to feel desperate. In that time he might cover distances that could take him close to busy roads and to nearby ponds."
Mrs Clark, 43, said for the first time in her life she called 111 and asked for the police.
She said the woman on the phone took control immediately, asking a series of detailed questions, keeping her calm and within phone range.
Police arrived shortly afterwards, with Senior Constable Glynn Cunningham taking her to the spot she had last seen Sebi.
"He asked me to stay with him so as not to disrupt the scent. Soon another officer arrived with a sniffer dog. The dog immediately took off through barbed wire fences to our neighbours on the left. They have a bushclad property and Sebi had never been there before."
Mrs Clark said she wanted to continue searching but Mr Cunningham pointed out that the area was contained with officers at both the ponds, and at nearby Hoddy's Rd and Westdale Rd. Others searched the house and sheds.
An hour-and-a-half after "our wee man" disappeared, and only minutes away from a search helicopter arriving, came the breakthrough.
Constable Tim Wincer had found Sebi, who had somehow got through a barbed wire fence to a neighbour's property, down their drive, across Westdale Rd, up another drive and into an empty grass section.
"Tim had heard crying and had followed the noise and found him sitting, unharmed in a mound of tussock a few metres away from the estuary.
"I burst into tears with relief and joy," Mrs Clark said.
"My husband went with another officer to meet Sebi and soon our precious wee boy was delivered safely into my arms."
Mrs Clark said at least 12 officers from Nelson, Richmond and Motueka branches responded to the call.
"I can't tell you how grateful my husband and I are, to them and how impressed we were by the efficiency and speed of their response to our crisis.
"They were also level headed, articulate, compassionate and very human."
"Thank you very, very much for the help that your people have given us today.
"I dread to think of the awful place my family might be in, right now, without you."
Tasman District commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said the situation was "every parent's worst nightmare and the response reflected our genuine concern and empathy for what these parents were going through".
"I am extremely proud of the professional way our officers handled the situation and, of course, delighted by the outcome."
Nelson Bays area commander Steve Greally described the call as a "heartstopper". "To be able to respond so quickly and to get such a positive outcome is what we put our uniforms on and come to work for."
Mrs Clark said Sebi was a "tearaway" who they had to keep a close eye on. He told his parents he had been on a "big, big walk."
Sebi was at preschool today where the fences were high, Mrs Clark said.
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