Our History

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

In 1934, New Zealand Land Search and Rescue (NZLSAR), started operating alongside local search and rescue groups and advisers appointed by the New Zealand Police. We secured funding through a government grant that flowed through the Police.

We continued to operate under this structure for approximately 70 years, until 1994 when we, New Zealand Land Search and Rescue, transformed into a separate, incorporated society. We managed our affairs through a national committee, comprising 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. Our membership base consisted of seven regions of volunteers, each with one representative from Police, DOC, the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, FMC, and the New Zealand Speleological Society.

Our subcommittees and working groups included Communications and Technology, Search & Rescue Dogs, Specialist, Training and Underground, Aviation, Medical, Swiftwater SAR, and Vertical Rescue. We received increased funding and employed a full-time administrative staff member. The Police generously provided office space and facilities at Police National Headquarters, where we worked alongside the Police national SAR coordinator.

In 2005, we replaced our national committee with a board of directors and hired a chief executive. Then, in 2009, ownership of our organization was transferred to our grassroot membership of approximately 2,500 volunteers. The original five institutional members became associate members.

Today, we, the 63 dedicated local Land Search and Rescue groups and specialist teams, provide land-based search and rescue resources to the Police and the public of New Zealand. Our total membership in Land Search and Rescue now exceeds 3,000 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 Search and Rescue, 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 Land Search and Rescue 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.

LAND Search and Rescue BOARD CHAIRS

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