Bringing wanderers safely home

Russell Christian, a member of Tauranga Land Search and Rescue with the WandaTrak which is being used to find people in search and rescue missions. Photo and video: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

Click the image above to watch the video

The community got a first-hand look at the power of the WandaTrak system on the weekend.

Russell Christian from Tauranga Land Search and Rescue – Tauranga LandSAR demonstrated the WandaTrak Tracking System at the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter Open Day on Sunday.

This system is used by Tauranga LandSAR and NZ Police to search for people living with dementia related illnesses and autism, who regularly wander from their place of residence.

“We have three systems in Tauranga,” says Russell.

“One in Papamoa, one in Greerton and one here, so we can triangulate around the city and find out where the person is when they go missing.”

Developed by Canterbury's Ian Trethowen, and made in Waipara, North Canterbury, Wandatrak tracking units are held at police stations and Tauranga LandSAR, and uses a simple radio frequency.

Each client is given a tracking device to wear which can be a keyring, pendant or wrist device.

It can also be sewn into their clothing. This device emits a pulse which is detected using a radio tracking unit and a directional finding aerial. As the tracking unit approaches the pendant or watch, the stronger the pulse will be.

The benefit of the WandaTrak is that it gives peace of mind to families and helps to reduce the stress on the missing person. It also reduces the resources required by Tauranga Land SAR and Police when searching.

“There are about 30 people in the Tauranga region who have the Wandatrak device since it was introduced about three and a half years ago,” says Senior Constable Jennie Wright.

“We frequently get individuals suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or dementia related conditions that go off wandering and many of them don't have a Wandatrak.

“The system is nationwide,” says Russell. “If they travel anywhere else in the country and go missing we can tell the LandSAR guys in that particular part of the country what the frequency is and they can go and find them too. It's a great system and cuts down on the manpower and time when people go missing.”

“It's similar to what the Department of Conservation use when they go looking for kiwi in the bush.”

People caring for someone who is living with dementia or autism and who is regularly wandering off from their home are encouraged to email Sergeant Craig Madden, Tauranga Police SAR on or Senior Constable Jennie Wright on

Tauranga LandSAR accepts donations to assist with the costs of the program. Each pendant or watch costs $290 and the battery replacements which are done every six months cost $60 each time. Donations can be made by cheque to Tauranga Search and Rescue Inc or by direct credit to bank account 12-3146-0251893-00


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