The Search Process

A frantic mother phones the Police; her four year old twins have found a hole in the garden fence and disappeared into the surrounding bush. Initial searches by neighbours and friends are of no avail. What happens next? She should phone 111 immediately.

In this situation the New Zealand Police, as one of the two Coordinating Authorities in New Zealand, will respond and if required will call on the support services of New Zealand Land Search and Rescue. The other Coordinating Authority is the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ).

So who is responsible for what?

NZ Police

The New Zealand Police coordinate Category One searches which usually involve local resources and people who are familiar with the area. These searches include land searches, subterranean searches (for missing cavers), river, lake and inland waterway searches and close-to-shore marine searches – usually within New Zealand territorial waters (12 nautical miles).

Officers in each police district are trained as search and rescue (SAR) coordinators. They work with volunteer groups such as New Zealand Land Search and Rescue, Coastguard New Zealand, New Zealand Defence Force, Amateur Radio Emergency Corps and local rescue helicopters. The NZ Police manages nearly 2,000 land and marine search and rescue incidents each year.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre

The Rescue Coordination Centre based at Avalon, Lower Hutt coordinate Category Two searches which are managed at a national level and typically involve searches for missing aircraft or aircraft in distress, off-shore marine searches within New Zealand’s search and rescue region and searches for emergency locator beacons that have been activated.

They usually require the use of national or international resources and may involve coordination with other countries. RCCNZ respond to approximately 800 SAR incidents each year.

Land Search and Rescue logo
New Zealand Land Search and Rescue provides volunteer Land Search and Rescue support services including search parties with Search and Rescue specialist field skills, communications personnel and incident management members. New Land Search and Rescue members are trained in Search and Rescue specific skills such as modern search techniques, outdoor first aid and tracking. This, together with regular revision and practice, ensures that effective trained people who have a strong commitment to Land Search and Rescue are put into the field on operations.
In the event of a Land based Search and Rescue operation volunteers are called out by the Police through the local Search and Rescue organisation at the group and regional levels. An Incident Management Team is then formed compromised of both Police and Land Search and Rescue volunteers with Key positions being:
  • Planning/Intelligence Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Logistics Manager
  • Admin Support Unit
  • Safety Officer
  • Communications Unit Leader
  • Field Team Leader
  • Field Team Member
  • Operational Search Dog Handler
  • Operational Caver/ Canyoner/ Swift water Rescue
  • Alpine Cliff Rescue