Taxpayer pays for “rescue” of man with hurty knee

This sort of thing winds me up no end.  Let’s see how much anger we can generate here.

Up to $10,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on a rescue in Northland over the weekend for a group of Aucklanders “who were not in real danger”, police say.

I think that being rescued should cost you money.  With discounts for being well prepared.

Police, Coastguard and a rescue helicopter were all involved in the search and rescue of two men, aged 25 and 33, who became stuck on a remote Bay of Islands walking track in poor weather on Saturday night after one of the men injured his knee.

A third man with the group had tramped to a Department of Conservation (DoC) hut for shelter, taking the group’s only torch with him, police said.

One torch between the three of them.

The trio set out to walk the Cape Brett track at Saturday lunchtime, thinking it would take just two hours, but by 9pm raised the alarm when one of them became injured and couldn’t continue.

That track is over 16km one-way, and is rated at 8 hours.  One way.  Great prep.

They were able to give their approximate location to police, and the Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) rescue chopper was sent out to find them.

The idiots were lucky to have cellphone cover.

However, low cloud around the hills prevented the helicopter from getting close. Coastguard took a police search and rescue team to Cape Brett in “very difficult and trying conditions” in the dark.

The injured man was found at 1.30am, huddled under a sleeping bag with his friend on an exposed ridge.

Not even the smarts to go find some basic shelter.   With a hurt knee and a mate, you can hobble places.  Especially if you use a branch to lean on.   Although they had given their torch away, I’m sure their cell phones would have provided some light for enough time to find a spot to be out o the weather.

His injuries were deemed to be minor, officer in charge of SAR Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said, and he was walked to the DoC hut, arriving around 4am.

Chopper, Coast Guard and lots of good people losing sleep.   Potentially putting others at risk, and if there was another emergency, stretching resources.

The group was picked up by Coastguard around 9am on Sunday and taken back to Waitangi.

I would have only picked up Mr Hurty Knee to be honest, although they were probably assuming the others would cause a 2nd call-out.

Mr Metcalfe said the men should not have attempted the hike “given their poor preparation and personal fitness levels”.

“They were totally unprepared for what they attempted to do,” he said.

“They disregarded the weather reports of heavy rain and strong winds, were not fit enough to walk the track and succumbed to fatigue eight hours into the walk. The knee injury was minor and the person was able to walk out to the hut under his own steam in the end.”

But… but… HURTY KNEE!!!

The group’s lack of preparation could “easily have compounded the situation if SAR had not reached them in time”, Mr Metcalfe said.

“Their food consisted of 10 packets of two-minute noodles and they had less than two litres of water each. They were not carrying wet weather clothing despite the weather forecasts, had no shelter and had one sleeping bag between two people,” he said.

10 packets of two minute noodles?  Did they expect someone to have a stove at all?  Or were they just going to eat them dry?

The rescue operation would have set taxpayers back by between $5000 and $10,000 for “two people who were not in real danger”, Mr Metcalfe said, as police have to foot the bill for calling the helicopter out on a rescue mission.

I think all rescues should be charged for.  If I was in serious trouble and they dropped from the sky to come get me, I couldn’t care less if I owed them $5k.  It would be money well spent.  This would also cover the situations where tourists set off in a set of trainers, a muesli bar and a can of Coke and then find themselves 6 hours from road-end, cold, lost and hungry.

And when SAR find that you have al the right gear, did all the right things, and you just ended up having a bad day, then they can at least offer you a decent discount.

But free rides out care of the tax payer?    I don’t think that should continue.


– Patrice Dougan, NZ Herald

Do you want:

  • ad-free access?
  • access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • access to Incite Politics magazine articles?

Silver subscriptions and above go in the draw to win a $500 prize to be drawn at the end of March.

Not yet one of our awesome subscribers? Click Here and join us.