Rescues highlight beacons

19:56, Nov 14 2012

The rescue of two trampers in the south within two days highlights the importance of personal locator beacons, rescuers say.

A 67-year-old Dunedin woman was picked up from the Siberia Valley, near Wanaka, by a Southern Lakes rescue helicopter about 7pm on Tuesday after breaking her ankle during an over-60s tramping trip.

The woman was flown to Wanaka for medical treatment.

On Monday, a 24-year-old woman was winched aboard a Southern Lakes chopper and flown from Stewart Island to Southland Hospital in Invercargill, also with a broken ankle,

She was one of a party of three travelling around Stewart Island, and rescuers were alerted after a personal locator beacon was activated.

Yesterday, Maritime New Zealand spokesman Steve Rendle said while some people still went out without the beacons, it was pleasing the number of people carrying them appeared to be increasing.


They were inexpensive to hire and could make all the difference, he said.

"It takes the search out of search and rescue."

When a beacon was activated, the signal was picked up by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ). Other options, such as cellphones in remote bush areas, were simply not as reliable.

"If there is no beacon then people are relying on cellphones or someone walking out. It just makes life that much more difficult."

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Geoff Lunt said because the groups were able to activate a personal locator beacon, it was able to arrange rescue quickly and without difficulty.

The beacons could substantially reduce rescue times, he said.

"Personal locator beacons with GPS capability should be part of any trampers' equipment if they are heading somewhere remote. ‘They can be purchased or hired and can mean the difference between a long, uncomfortable wait and a quick rescue - they can save lives. They should also be registered, so that RCCNZ can quickly reach emergency contacts, if required."

Information on beacons is available at:

The Southland Times