Our History

Our history as a volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) organisation began in the 1930’s after two large searches in the Tararua Ranges.

In 1934 New Zealand Land Search and Rescue (NZLSAR) began operating with local search and rescue groups and advisers appointed by the New Zealand Police. Funding was made available from a government grant that was channelled through the Police.

NZLSAR operated under this structure for some 70 years until 1994 when New Zealand Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) became a separate, incorporated society. Management of New Zealand Land Search and Rescue was carried out by a national committee made up of a chairman, treasurer, seven regional representatives, chairs of five standing subcommittees, a Police representative, a Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) representative and a Department of Conservation (DOC) representative. Seven regions of volunteers and one representative each from Police, DOC, the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, FMC and the New Zealand Speleological Society formed the membership base.

Subcommittees and working groups included Communications and Technology, Search & Rescue Dogs, Specialist, Training and Underground, Aviation, Medical, Swiftwater SAR and Vertical Rescue. Funding was increased and a fulltime administrative staff member was employed. The Police provided office space and facilities at Police National Headquarters, sitting alongside the Police national SAR coordinator.

In 2005 the national committee was replaced by a board of directors and a chief executive employed. In 2009 ownership of the organisation was vested in the grass root membership of approximately 2,500 volunteers. The original five institutional members became associate members.

Sixty dedicated local LandSAR groups and specialist teams now provide land based search and rescue resources to the Police and public of New Zealand. The total membership of LandSAR in January 2020 was over 3,500 volunteers.

For a more comprehensive background, the development of Land Search and Rescue a publication was produced in 2020 by Roger Bates with support from the Baker Bequest entitled to Land Search and Rescue in New Zealand 1934 – 2020. The book comprises 275 pages and covers 5 sections from the History of Land SAR, SAR Structure as at 2020, SAR Procedures, a number of Case Histories and supplementary information. For further information on how to obtain a copy please refer to the members portal.

For more information on the local LandSAR groups go to our Contact page.


Historical Records

Some articles and images from the past may be found in the Dunedin Public Library Scattered Seeds archive.

The Federated Mountain Clubs website has an online archive of historical records.


1996 – 2002 – Graham Thorp

2002 – 2006 – Roscoe Tait

2006 – 2008 – Ray Polson

2008 – 2012 – Phillip Melchior

2012 – 2014 – Dave Erson

2014 – 2017 – Rex Hendry

2017 – 2020 – Dave Robertson

2020 – Present – Graham Pomeroy


2006 – Roger Barrowclough (Deceased)

2007 – Roscoe Tait, Auckland

2009 – Tom Clarkson, Wellington

2010 – Roger Bates, Turangi

2015 – Dave Erson, Auckland

2016 – Patricia (Tric) Moller, Dunedin