The family of British hiker Stephanie Simpson, whose body was found in Mount Aspiring National Park on Friday, says the 32-year-old was the "happiest she has ever been in her life," living in Wanaka.
Searchers located Stephanie’s body alongside her pack in the Pyke Creek area after an intensive five-day search operation.
Her family arrived on the scene at the same time as Stephanie’s body was brought out.
In a statement, they’ve thanked New Zealand search teams for their efforts.
"The area where Stephanie was found was vast and although we had maps, we really didn’t appreciate the extent of the area being searched and how challenging the terrain was until we visited the area. Without the skills, determination and continual belief that the rescue teams would find Stephanie, we would never have got our beautiful girl back to allow us to now grieve for our loss in our own time," it says.
Her parents Sally and Trevor, and two sisters Elizabeth and Natalie arrived last week to help with the search, and said they were "overwhelmed" with the messages of support.
"When we arrived in Queenstown and stepped out of the plane like Stephanie did 5 months ago, we then realised how this beautiful country and amazing people captured her heart, making her the happiest she has ever been in her life."
"Every parent thinks their child is very special, but to hear how she has touched so many people with her zest for life, kind and quirky ways is beautiful and comforting."
The family have said they will take Stephanie’s body home with them. Her death has been referred to the coroner.