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NZ cost of stranded cars in SARThe total cost to recover 38 people after their four-wheel-drives became trapped in heavy snow in May reached almost $57,000.

Otago Lakes area commander Inspector Olaf Jensen said the final figure for the operation cost, in which 38 people, including two children, become stuck in heavy snow on the Old Man Range on Waikaia Bush Rd, in Central Otago, is $56,927.53.

The amount included staff wages, costs of hiring equipment and vehicles, and the rescue helicopter.

The group were rescued and taken to Roxburgh almost 26 hours after notifying police they were stuck on May 22.

“Cost is never a factor of the safety and welfare of those needing assistance when determining the appropriate course of action or which resources to use,” Jensen said.

The focus for police in any search and rescue operation was always the welfare and safe recovery of those who were missing, along with ensuring the safety of all those involved in the search, he said.

“I’m sure that if any of us were in trouble in the bush, on the water, or in the air and needing rescue, we would be very grateful that cost does not factor into operational decision making.”

There was normally some monetary cost associated with a SAR operation but there was never a financial “charge” imposed on anyone who is in distress and who needs the help of police, Jensen said.

Volunteers make an invaluable contribution to search and rescue operations, he said.

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Jensen thanked the volunteers, police staff and others who assisted with the operation.

Throughout the past five years, the cost of police SAR operations had remained consistent, averaging out at $2,945,338.71 a year.

Police data did not indicate any significant increasing trend in the number of SAR incidents, he said.

The 13 stranded vehicles were recovered on June 5 after about two weeks in the snow.

Spokesman for the 4WD group, Curtis Martelli, said he did not want to comment on how much it cost to recover the vehicles.

He was surprised at the high cost of the SAR operation.

“It’s crazy, but that’s the price of our lives.”

It was good, friendly help they got while they were stuck, Martelli said.

Following the recovery, he was keen to become involved in Land Search and Rescue and was already helping out with SAR operations on the water. To read more click here.

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