About 11.30am last Friday 6 January, Tūhoe iwi kaimahi (workers) discovered a woman with a leg injury at the Panekire Hut on the Waikaremoana Track, Te Urewera during a routine maintenance visit.

She was found with a group of walking friends who sought help to get her off the track and the kaimahi contacted Police that she needed medical attention and assistance getting out.

Wairoa Police Search and Rescue Coordinator (SAR) Senior Constable Tony Maultsaid says: “Initially, we liaised with Hato Hone St John and arranged for the Hawke’s Bay Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter to help her, but when the chopper arrived, it was unable to get to the hut due to high winds at the top of the mountain.”

“Given the deteriorating weather and the helicopter no longer being an option, a new plan was required for her extraction,” he says.  The group that she’d walked in with continued their journey and Police and Tūhoe Kaimahi went to work, to get her rescued.

“Thankfully we had communications being maintained by Waikaremoana Operations directly to the Tūhoe Kaimahi. They established that the injured woman was partly mobile and felt she could walk out with some assistance.

“Tūhoe Kaimahi and police formulated a plan for her to get to Waiopaoa Hut and then uplift everyone via water taxi – which is usually a two and a half hour walk,” he says.

“With it being a busy time of the year for the Waikaremoana Great Walk there were Tūhoe Kaimahi situated at various points around the lake.

“We decided to use these Kaimahi and three Tūhoe Wairoa SAR volunteers from Tuai to carry out the operation with two further Tūhoe personnel assisting Police to run the communications from Te Kura Whenua,” says Tony.

“The team deployed into the field, carrying equipment to support the injured tramper, and they arrived at Panekire Hut about 5.30pm and began the slow walk back to Waiopaoa Hut.

“Due to the nature of the track and the bad weather, a stretcher would have been slower, more hazardous and required three times as many personnel, so walking out was the best choice,” he says, and the team finally met the water taxi to be transported back to safety at about 1am.

Tina Wagner, Kaimahi from Tūhoe says: “The woman’s leg injury was checked over by St John Ambulance staff and the Waimako Marae was made available where our manuhiri was cared for.”

Police are grateful that the effective existing relationship between Tūhoe and local Police and how the teamwork enabled this operation to have a successful outcome, says Tony.

We would like to remind people about staying safe in the outdoors. The Land Safety Code provides five key steps for enjoying the outdoors, safely:

·          Choose the right trip for you: Kōwhiria te haerenga tika māu:  It pays to learn about the route and make sure you have the skills for it.
·         Understand the weather: Kia mārama ki te huarere:  It can change fast. Check the forecast and change your plans if needed.
·         Pack warm clothes and extra food: Kawea ngā kākahu whakamahana me ētahi atu kai: Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected extra night out.
·         Share your plans: Whakamōhiotia atu ō whakaritenga Telling a trusted person your trip details and taking a distress beacon can save your life.
·         Take care of yourself and each other: Tiakina koe me tangata kē atu Eat, drink, rest, and stick with your group and make decisions together.

Beacons are small lightweight devices that help you summon help in an emergency in the outdoors. It’s the lifeline that can summon help to your location in a life-threatening situation. You can rent or buy a distress beacon and take it with you.  You can register your distress beacon at  Beacons(link is external) because it’s fast, easy, and free to register.

For more helpful information on staying safe in the outdoors you can visit the Mountain Safety Council(link is external) resources.