-- Maritime NZ defends decision to call off search early

Maritime NZ defends decision to call off search early    

'Tafadzwa comes alongside the wharf in the Chatham Islands'    .

Maritime New Zealand has defended its decision to call off the search for missing yachtie Paul Van Rensburg after three days.

Van Rensburg had not been seen since March 12 when he left Tauranga on his yacht, Tafadzwa. He was due in Gisborne two days later but failed to arrive.

His yacht was finally found by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion on a training flight, about 110km west of the Chatham Islands, shortly before 2.00pm on Sunday, however, van Rensburg was not on board.

An extensive search started the day after he was due to arrive but it was called off within three days - something Warwick Gowland, a friend of van Rensburg disagrees with.

'We believed right from the start that they should have been out looking, staying in the air, staying on the water searching and if they'd continued it and looked in the right area the boat should have turned up earlier,' says Gowland.'>

A helicopter and Air Force Orion covered an area of around 360,000 kilometres from Gisborne to the East Cape in the search.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) mission coordinator Geoff Lunt rejects any criticism of the search.

'We carried out a very extensive and exhaustive search and based that on the information we had at the time,' he says.

Inquiries into the vessel's location had been exhausted, he says.

'That was what happened after three days of searching, it was decided that there was no longer viability to continue searching.'

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- 10:30 AM Mon 29 Mar 2010 GMT

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