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


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  • symgardiner

    I thought the rescue services did send a bill if the people had been stupid???

    • I.M Bach

      A ‘stupid tax’, brilliant. That’ll sort the deficit overnight.

      • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

        Nah our judiciary will waive the outstanding idiot fines and give them community service that they wont do anyway. (Happened to some dolt with 80K of fines, got reduced to 120hrs of comm service which he did none of – no punishment).

  • Isherman

    In a perfect world, they should be charged,..and..charged. Charged for the cost of the “rescue”, ad also charged with wasting police and emergency services time. The only thing these winners needed “rescuing” from is their own stupidity.

  • Cowgirl

    They really should be charged. People need to start being made an example of, so that other stupid people don’t get the idea that they can do these things with impunity. It reminds me of the guy in the US who needed repeated rescuing due to stupid, reckless behaviour – like tramping in jandals.
    How embarrassing to be able to walk out after calling for rescue – I hope they are all heartily ashamed of themselves.

    • MaryLou

      They won’t be. It’s another “right”, just like having the Sallies provide Christmas.

  • Aucky

    Essential rescue helicopter equipment should include an EFTPOS machine to cover such eventualities.

    • Whafe

      Fall off your mountain bike in Whistler, and need to go to emergency clinic, hand over visa first. :)

      • Aucky

        Slip in the shower in Sydney and get ambulanced to St Vincents. Top class treatment and overnight observation is free under reciprocal health arrangements BUT four weeks later an ambo bill for A$1200 arrives in the mail. Thank God for Southern Cross.

  • Brian Badonde

    This is a must do these holidays – Pretend to go for walk in remote place. Then stub my big toe and call for free helicopter joy ride. Don’t forget to take a selfie. Oh I wonder if I could get the pilot to fly over my house…….

  • Caprice

    Big call charging for rescues. Our hospitals also spend a lot of our money and time on people who made poor choices, were to unfit for that first game of rugby, ate too much, drank too much, did not think before they climbed a ladder…
    It is just a cost we have to grin and bear, while hoping not to end up needing the chopper, the hospital or the police.

    • MaryLou

      You have a point. Many hospitals are overwhelmed at night with drunken teenagers and people old enough to know better, and even the Takapuna police have made mention in the past about how they’re sick of being babysitters every Friday night. But re-naming the fee so it applies to all unnecessary waste of public money would solve that. I’m all for it.

      Next – the Councils…

  • david W

    The problem in charging people full cost is that they would delay calling in until it became really serious and loss of life would result. However I do think a standard stupidity fee, of say $0.5 – 1k per person would at least make you think twice. ie like a fine for doing something dumb.

    Given they had no medical kit, nor any sense of bush craft, the knee would have been a big issue. However with a properly wrapped knee it would have moved it from unable to walk, to walkable.

  • El Jorge

    Absolutely, charge them a couple of grand and charge them for manslaughter/murder if someone else that could have been rescued at the same time dies.

  • Rocket

    Anybody got a link to photos and names of these drongoes?

  • Reaper

    Were they not able to phone their Mummies?

  • burns_well_eh

    Can’t disagree, but on the other hand it’s good training for the SAR people, and even if they couldn’t get the chopper in it was also experience for the pilot. All they had to do was imagine they had some genuine trampers seriously hurt through no fault of their own, and it becomes a worthwhile exercise.

    • El Jorge

      The NEST pilots have more than enough experience, they even have one of the best flight simulators around:

      • burns_well_eh

        Nice article, great example of kiwi ingenuity, building a world-class flight simulator for a tenth of the going rate.

        But there’s no substitute for getting out there and doing it for real. You don’t get to just “push the button and off you go again” after actually crashing into Starship.

  • Michelle

    Cape Brett is a serious track not for the unfit and it has good signage if you bother to read it

    did it a couple of years ago on one of the hottest days of the year but worth it

    some people run out and back there but they are super fit it is one of those challenge runs

    it reminds me of a guy who called up the rescue helicopter because he was running late and wanted to get off a track and back to his car they should be charged for these sorts of things

  • I’ve only visited the USA a couple of times – but ALWAYS had medical insurance, because just a broken arm can cost you circa $50-100K

    Clearly none of them were boy scouts, or were able to read the signage, or had many brain cells they could collectively call to action.

    Yep – charge them, because no government can legislate for stupidity and laziness!

  • Rick H

    Something about this story doesn’t ring true.
    It might be down to some “ad-ilbbing” by the herald though.

    It says they expected the walk to take “2 hours”.
    If that was the case, how come they brought 10 bags of noodles and a sleeping bag?

  • LabTested

    the 3rd mate sounds like a decent bloke.

  • Benoni

    It is summertime. They were not going to die of exposure in “the winter-less north” .
    Maybe these heli-copter taxi clients could be asked if they REALLY want the helicopter to take them out at a cost of 10K or would they rather wait until morning?

  • Wheninrome

    Back in time schools had camps that really tested children as to how to survive and what to do should adverse weather conditions set in.
    Trouble is we had those naughty teachers who volunteered to lead school camps and couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, so an end to something that was extremely important and part of the New Zealand way of life (I don’t mean the pedo teachers).

  • Tom

    Was the guy a Kiwi ? Probably not like all the other rescues.

  • Disinfectant

    The rescue choppers might need to be restrained as well.
    They go to accidents which are only 20-30 km’s down the road. An ambulance is normally there just as quick.
    But of course the rescue choppers want to make as much money as they can.
    Maybe they should be constrained within a certain “radius of action”.