Rescue of stranded 4WD motorists in Otago cost taxpayers nearly $60k

Police have put the cost of rescuing 38 people off Old Man Range near Roxburgh in Otago in May at $56,927.53.

The mission is on to rescue 36 people stranded in the hills in Central Otago. Source: 1 NEWS

The group of four-wheel-drivers were on a day trip on Waikaia Bush Road when snow came in thick and fast, trapping them.

Police launched a rescue mission, but the group, which included children, were stuck in their vehicles overnight.

They were finally brought down to Roxburgh the following evening, almost 26 hours after police were notified.

Hear from Daniel who was among the 36 stuck on a Central Otago road, Chris Coory from Dunedin Search and Rescue and Inspector Olaf Jensen who has some advice for the adventurous Source: 1 NEWS

Inspector Olaf Jensen, Otago Lakes Area Commander, says police's prime objective in any search and rescue operation is always the welfare and safe recovery of those who are missing.

Police provide SAR services as part of their normal business, and are funded to do so. Because of this, the rescued group will not be charged.

"Cost is never a factor over the safety and welfare of those needing assistance when determining the appropriate course of action or which resources to use," Inspector Jensen said.

A breakdown of costs shows the fee for a local helicopter was $16,226.71. Other resources including two snow cats, two snow mobiles, snow groomers and a chartered bus totalled $14,924.57.

The remainder of the $56,927.53 price tag accounts for police staff, SAR squads, transport, accommodation and meals.

The NZ Defence Force NH90 helicopter was also used in the operation, although couldn't land at the site. There was no cost to police for its use.

TVNZ has requested a breakdown of costs for the NH90's use on that day from the NZ Defence Force.