Two young bushwalkers missing in New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park for 18 days have been found alive.
A huge array of officials and volunteers began a search for Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, both 23, on May 19.
The pair, hailing from the small town of Takaka, had begun a tramp from the remote Anatori River, near the north tip of South Island, on May 9.
What began as a small search operation grew to involve dozens, including cliff rescue specialists, defence force personnel, fire and emergency workers and police – using helicopters, drone aircraft and dog teams.
A forecast 100mm of rain forced the search’s postponement on Monday and Tuesday, and brought grave fears for the pair.
However, on Wednesday – 18 days after setting out – police announced the pair had been found, against the odds.
“”(They) got lost fairly early on in the tramp … they did the right thing,” police spokesman Malcolm York said.
“They stayed put and they made themselves visible, so when we got to that spot, we were able to see them.
The pair were hungry, being without food for “quite some time”, but were comforted by family and friends after being airlifted to Nelson.
Mr York said the pair had minor injuries; Mr Reynolds has a strained ankle and Ms O’Connor has a strained back from a fall.
In all, three search dog teams were used after the police pups fatigued during the extensive search.
Mr York said it was “pretty rare” for such a long search to have a happy ending.
“(It’s a) fantastic outcome and one we were all hoping for,” he said.
Mark O’Connor, father of Ms O’Connor, said he was “absolutely over the moon”.
“The search team and the police have done such a fantastic job, fabulous,” he told Stuff.
A fundraising page to support search and rescue volunteer organisation LANDSAR for their efforts has already attracted over $NZ29,000 ($A27,024).