Lost and Found: The heartbreak behind reuniting families for popular Kiwi documentary series

David Lomas says there are several reasons for the large numbers of missing family members in New Zealand.

David Lomas says there are several reasons for the large numbers of missing family members in New Zealand.

After nearly a decade reuniting families on television, David Lomas' work is nowhere near done.

New Zealand has thousands of people desperate to find their missing mums, dads or siblings, says the veteran journalist and host of Lost And Found.

"What is sad is there are so many who have so little information that it is very hard for us to be able to help them," he says.

Investigative journalist David Lomas says searches for missing family members can be 'long and expensive'.

Investigative journalist David Lomas says searches for missing family members can be 'long and expensive'.

"You get one where Mum slept with a Japanese seaman in Napier. How do we find him? People always want to know who they are, irrespective of how they were created."

Lomas says there are several reasons for the large numbers of missing family members in this country.

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"We had that massive adoption boom in the 60s and 70s and then we have the poverty issue, economic refugees from marriages, fathers who leave families and don't have anything to do with them because they can't afford the child support and everything else that comes with it."

There's also what he calls the New Zealand-Australian factor.

"So many New Zealanders are almost anonymous in Australia. They're not on electoral rolls, they don't own properties because they are not wealthy enough to do so and with the demise of the home telephone number, they're not on the phone so it's very, very easy for someone to absolutely vanish in Australia," he says.

That said, he has, through Lost And Found and its predecessors Missing Pieces and Family Secret, reunited hundreds of people with missing family members and provided valuable information to many more.

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The searches can be long and expensive. This season alone takes Lomas to the Philippines, Germany, Austria, the US and Canada as well as around New Zealand. 

"We're doing one this series which I first started work on five years ago," he says.

"It was one we didn't think we'd be able to solve. It was an American guy who had been living in Australia but just vanished off the face of the Earth. 

"Over the last five or six years, we've looked at it and looked at it and just never got a breakthrough and then this year we had a remarkable piece of luck and we were able to solve it."

Not all investigations have happy endings and many don't make it to screen.

"We abandon many. We did one just recently where a woman was trying to find her dad who was a Japanese seaman," Lomas says.

"We found a guy who matched and he said he believed he was the person we were looking for and basically accepted he was the father. 

"However, when we said, 'We'd like to bring your daughter to meet you' he said he'd like to do a DNA test first, and it wasn't him. The mother had no other answer at all. 

"There were just so many where we got the wrong information or people just didn't know enough for us to be able to solve it."

While Lomas and his research team use several websites to track people down, he says often the answer can be found closer to home. 

"We ask a lot of questions of family and relatives of anyone who approaches us because someone knows something they haven't told the other person," he says, adding this tactic hasn't always been popular. 

"When we first started eight or nine years ago, you got, 'That's a secret' or people saying they could decide what the best interest of the seeker was – 'No, they don't really want to know that person'.

I think the programme has slightly changed that.

"A lot of the births and separations happened when people were young. If we all look back at what happened when we were 20, we're not necessarily different people but we've matured a lot."

Lomas admits not everyone feels like he does.

"A couple of times, we've been chased down the street by irate chaps. If they don't want to be on television, we can't really do the story. It's not for us to get into an argument. 

"If someone is really anti us or anti being found, we have a policy that we will pass on information, good or bad. 

"Our belief is if a father abandoned his family or children when they were young, he made that decision but it's the children's decision now whether to find him."

Lost And Found, Three, starts Tuesday September 19.

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 - TV Guide

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