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Lost tramper rescued from waterfall in Whangārei Heads

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A tramper was found lost along the rugged coastline in Whangārei Heads. Photo / NZME

Rescuers rushed to Whangārei Heads to find a freediver missing in the water and a tramper lost along the same rugged coastline.

Police LandSar, Northland Land Search and Rescue (LandSar) , Coastguard Whangārei, and Ruakākā and Whangārei Heads surf life saving search and rescue squads were called to Peach Cove on Wednesday afternoon where they successfully found the freediver.

At the same time, the agencies were tasked with locating a tramper who had gone astray in the same area.

A fisherman at Smugglers Bay had pointed the man in the wrong direction as the tramper tried to find the walking trail to Peach Cove Hut.

Northland LandSar adviser Grant Conaghan said the tramper ended up on a rough trapline track used by people setting predator traps.

The alarm was raised around 4.30pm when the man used his cellphone to call for help.

Rescuers scoured the coastline on foot, while the others searched from the choppy sea.

Whangārei Coastguard president Cherie Nelson said the crew on the water had been able to hear the man who was on the phone to police directing them to his location.

One Coastguard volunteer familiar with the area had an idea around where the tramper could be, she said.

Conaghan said Coastguard spotted him from the water, 20m up a waterfall.

“He had already scrambled part way down the waterfall and a creek, trying to find his way out.”

Conaghan was one of the four Northland LandSar cliff rescuers tasked with retrieving the tramper.

“We had to scramble our way up the waterfall to about 50m above sea level,” he said.

The rescuers used tree roots and small trees to haul themselves up the loose cliff face underfoot.

“We had to be extremely careful as some of the tree roots were loose so they’d go with you,” Conaghan said.

“It was doable but you’d never want to slip, you end up in a crumpled heap.”

As darkness began to sink in, two of the rescuers tied a rope to the tramper before abseiling him down to safety.

Conaghan and another rescuer soon followed. The pair climbed backwards down 50m to the waterfall’s base.

The unhurt tramper was then loaded on to the board behind the lifeguard’s rescue jetski and taken to the Whangārei Coastguard vessel before being ferried back to land.

Both Conaghan and Nelson praised the seamless teamwork of the four agencies, that last month had run through a major weekend training session together in Whangārei Heads.

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