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Darren Butler receives his award from LandSAR NZ’s Louise Beaumont. Photo: SUPPLIED

Award for 20 years of search and rescue

After roughly 150 search and rescue missions, Darren Butler has roped in two decades with Waihī Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR).
The current chairman of the voluntary organisation, which has 22 full time volunteers, told The Profile a love of camping, hiking, running and mountain biking led him to join 20 years ago.
“I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors in the bush and a friend of mine who’d been involved in search and rescue for a few years suggested I come along for a look and pretty much instantly got hooked,” he said.
“The things that appeal are the challenges of trying to find where the missing parties may be or where they may have gone, linking clues and information as it builds a bit of a picture to try and figure it out. “You get the best of both worlds, doing something I enjoy and feeling like you can make a difference to others who may be missing or injured.”
Darren, who works for Alitech Window Systems in Waihī, said three multi-day missions to locate missing individuals were the most memorable. These include a week-long search in the Kauaeranga Valley in 2006, a four day search in the Hunua Ranges in 2012 and a five day search in Tūrangi in 2017.
“Most of those were in very cold, wet conditions which is often the case,” he said.
“In Tūrangi, it’s a much colder climate compared to what we’ve got here. All the bush was just so dense down there and around the Kauaeranga Valley, it’s very steep terrain pushing into thick bush off trail.
“They all had different results… but I was sometimes amazed with how someone can remain out in a very unpleasant environment for several days and still be found alive.” Darren, who’s also an associate member of Waihī Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, said the public support over the years had been “amazing”.
“We’ll often get letters of thanks and cards, just expressing their gratitude, and it’s very rewarding from that perspective,” he said.
“You sort of think if your own family members were lost or injured out there, you’d certainly want someone to go and help them out.”
Darren also said Waihī LandSAR’s new ute donated by OceanaGold in June had also received public support with Waihī Auto Services supplying the canopy and towbar for free and Waihī Family Doctors covering its insurance. He has no plans to abandon his search and rescue career and will continue training new volunteers and help build the group’s new search and training base.