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Police praise 4WD rescue operation

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/05/2016

Police are praising a "great outcome" after successfully rescuing dozens of people who spent the night stuck in snow in a remote area of the South Island.

The group of 38, including two children, were on a back country 4WD trek when they became stranded in blizzard-like conditions on an off-road track near the Southland-Otago border on Sunday night.

Severe weather hampered rescue attempts and there were growing concerns the group was running low on fuel.

However, rescuers managed to reach them on Monday afternoon.

They were taken to the snowline onboard snowcats before being taken to a temporary emergency unit at nearby Roxburgh Rugby Club.

The group reached the club just before 7pm, where they were checked over by paramedics before being welcomed by loved ones and offered pies and hot drinks.

Inspector Olaf Jensen told media in Alexandra he was relieved there was a positive outcome as the rescue effort was hampered by severe weather.

He wouldn't comment on whether the group should've been in the area and said the cost of the operation was not a consideration.

Police would be speaking to the group on Tuesday to determine whether they had been adequately prepared for the trip, he said.

The group would need to foot the bill to recover their stranded 4WDs, which would be a "fine weather task".

Insp Jenson warned anyone considering heading to isolated areas to check weather conditions and make sure they're well prepared.

Up to 50 people were involved in the rescue.

The 4WD track where the group become stuck, known as the Old Man Range, sits about 1500 metres above sea level at its highest point and was hit by significant snowfall on Sunday.

Brent Wilson, who is from the Central Otago 4WD Club and helped with the rescue, described the track as extreme.

Photos posted to Facebook show some of the vehicles covered in snow and ice.

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