A woman who got lost on a Taranaki beach bunked down on a piece of cardboard in a cave on Monday night.
The 24-year-old Tauranga woman went missing from a rural family farm several kilometres south of Opunake and sparked a full search and rescue operation.
Senior Sergeant Matt Prendergast said a family member had found the woman alive and well walking on the beach shortly after 8am yesterday.
"It was a bit of a cold night for her but she's as good as gold and in good spirits," he said.
The woman, who was reportedly emotionally fragile after a personal tragedy, had left the property mid-afternoon on Monday and told people she was going for a walk to the beach.
"She went for a wander to have a bit of a think about things and a bit of time out by herself," Mr Prendergast said.
She had a large white blanket wrapped around her and had taken her cellphone with her.
Mr Prendergast said she had walked off the farm and become lost.
"She got down to the beach and it got dark and with the sea and the cliffs and rocks around there she decided to hunker down for the night."
He said she had been afraid she would either get into trouble finding her way out or get wet, which would have made her even colder.
She spent the night huddled on a piece of cardboard in a small cave under a ledge in the cliff.
"She did manage to get a bit of sleep but it got cold down there."
Temperatures around the coast dropped to around two degrees Celsius overnight.
She had also lost her cellphone along the way so had no way of contacting her family, who were getting worried.
When the woman did not return her family rang police about 7pm and the search for her began a short time later.
A full-scale search and rescue operation was launched and police search and rescue staff, land search and rescue teams, the Palmerston North rescue helicopter and farmers from the area were out looking for her all night.
A technical problem meant it was unsafe for the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter to help with the night search. Fresh SAR teams were gearing up to continue the search yesterday morning when the woman was found.
Mr Prendergast said the woman had been checked out by paramedics and was all right.
"She was a bit embarrassed about all the publicity but she was very grateful to all the search and rescuers and volunteers who had been out searching for her."
He said she had done the right thing by staying put for the night.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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