Tramper spared prosecution

By Viv Logie

Maritime New Zealand has decided to not prosecute the Nelson tramper who activated his emergency beacon because he was running late.
In early February, the 67-year-old — a well-known tramper and author — thumbed a lift in the West Coast rescue helicopter after setting off his beacon. He was tramping in the backcountry of Paringa, in South Westland, and had underestimated the time it took to walk back to his car.
The rescue helicopter made a special trip from Greymouth to pick him up.
Maritime NZ general manager of safety and response services Nigel Clifford said today the man had activated his beacon on the third day of an intended five-day untracked tramp in the Hooker wilderness area.
“He had encountered more difficult terrain than anticipated, despite carrying out extensive research of the area, and felt that he would be putting himself at considerable risk by attempting to walk out of the area,” Mr Clifford said.
“We are satisfied that in the particular circumstances this person was justified in activating their emergency beacon.”
He said MNZ did not wish to discourage people from activating beacons when they were in distress, but it was not a decision that should be taken lightly. He reiterated the need for people going into wilderness areas to be prepared.
“Beacons are not a substitute for good planning. People going into wilderness areas should be aware of weather forecasts and carry suitable communications equipment such as a mountain radio. Cellphones should not be relied upon,” Mr Clifford said.