Millions of dollars spent on rescues
More than $3 million was spent rescuing people last year and police say that while their priority is to find people in distress regardless of the cost, some operations could always be avoided.
According to police figures, $3,060,333.69 was spent on 1984 land and sea search and rescue operations last financial year.
In 2011-12 police carried out 1621 operations, while in 2012-13, there were 1819.
National Co-ordinator Search and Rescue Senior Sergeant Bruce Johnston said that whatever the cost, it would be shouldered.
"The first priority of police and its search and rescue partner-agencies is to save lives and safely recover anyone who may be in distress, so cost is not a consideration," he said
He said the organisations that took part in rescues were funded by the Government to provide the services as part of their normal operating budgets, so there was no extra cost involved.
Search and rescue operations, depending on the scale and location, were headed either by police or the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), which is operated by Maritime New Zealand.
Among the more high-profile operations carried out last year, was the search for the fishing vessel Easy Rider.
In the early hours of March 15 2012, the Easy Rider was struck by a large wave in Foveaux Strait, capsizing the fishing vessel and sending eight of the nine people on board to their deaths.
The one survivor, Dallas Reedy, was found by rescuers clinging to a petrol can after spending up to 18 hours in the water.
The full cost of the search was $112,901 - which included 500 hours of police time at a cost of $37,500 and 250 hours of police search and rescue staff time at a cost of $23,750.
While the Easy Rider had an emergency locator beacon on board, 16 trampers who went into the Tongariro National Park in the middle of a storm did not.
Police said that although the group were eventually found a few hours later, some with hypothermia, the outcome could have been much worse.
"The group was poorly dressed, some wearing shorts, jeans and light rain jackets," Johnston said.
"All 16 were totally inexperienced and relied on the advice of the transport operator, who assured them that the weather would clear and they would be fine."
No one had a personal locator beacon, and while that cost just over $500, it could have avoided the cost of a rescue.
"While there will always be some SAR operations carried out each year that might in hindsight have been avoided had those involved been better prepared, at the time of initiating any SAR response, the priority of the agencies involved is to respond effectively to those in distress and not second-guess the situation," Johnston said.
"The key point is that if someone considers themselves to be in sufficient distress to need our help, then we encourage them to seek that help, rather than wait for the situation to deteriorate further or put themselves or others at greater risk."
By the numbers:
Total rescue cost: $3,060,333.69
CATEGORY 1 (Police co-ordinated incidents):
Land - 1173 searches at a cost of $1,865,480.07
Sea - 751 searches at a cost of $1,115,501.62
CATEGORY 2 (RCCNZ co-ordinated incidents):
Land - 47 searches at a cost of $49,159.25
Sea - 13 searches at a cost of $30,192.75
- © Fairfax NZ News
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