Lake Wanaka search for crashed helicopter and pilot suspended until daylight

A police-led search around Lake Wanaka for a missing helicopter and pilot has been suspended for the day and will resume tomorrow at first light.

The helicopter was reported overdue about lunchtime yesterday.

And oil slick and debris form the Robinson helicopter was later spotted by searchers at Stevenson's Arm on Lake Wanaka. 

The Police National Dive Squad began a search of the lake this afternoon.

Police today confirmed the pilot of the helicopter is 39-year-old Matthew Timothy Wallis and said he is not believed to have survived the crash.

Mr Wallis, the son of Warbirds over Wanaka founder Sir Tim Wallis, was the only person onboard the Alpine Helicopters helicopter.

Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw says police are liaising with the family and keeping them updated on the progress of the search.

Many local people have been involved in the operation, including LandSAR and Coastguard volunteers, Mr Shaw said this afternoon.

"We would like to thank the community for their offers of support particularly those with boats and aircraft," he said.

Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw says the pilot Matthew Wallis, who's believed dead, was a well-known Wanaka local. Source: 1 NEWS

"We know Matthew is well-known in the area and many people are concerned for him."

Alpine Helicopters says at 12.54pm on Saturday, a helicopter left its base with one person onboard on a private flight from Wanaka Airport to Mount Aspiring National Park. 

The flight was expected to take approximately 15 minutes. At 1.08pm the helicopter was unable to be reached by radio. Its last satellite position report was 1.03pm. 

At 1.16pm the aircraft was deemed overdue and at 1.19pm two aircraft were sent to search for the missing helicopter and pilot.

A prominent member of the community, Matt Wallis, is missing feared dead in the accident. Source: 1 NEWS

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Thousands of West Coasters protest against Government's 'anti-mining' position

Thousands of West Coasters turned out for a massive protest today against what they say is the Government's anti-mining stance.

The march coincided with the opening of a new $25 million Taramakau Bridge south of Greymouth.

But most who turned up were voicing anger over the Government's reluctance to allow new mining on conservation land.

Protesters were the first to set foot on the new bridge, many critical of the Conservation minister, and the West Coast MP Damien O'Connor not escaping the attacks.

But he says it's premature to panic following the Government announcement that it won't issue new mining permits on Department of Conservation land.

"It will always be part of our West Coast economy. Clearly the announcement in relation to conservation land is of concern to people. That's why we've got to go through a very thorough process [about] what is a no-go area and what can be utilised," Mr O'Connor said. 

One-thousand trucks, representing hundreds of West Coast businesses, also protested. 

"We're not angry people, but they are concerned and they won't lay down for this. As you can see today, people are standing up for their rights," said Peter Haddock, rally organiser.

The march coincided with the opening of a new $25 million Taramakau Bridge south of Greymouth. Source: 1 NEWS