7. Personal locator beacons

Plan your trip | Be aware of weather | Take sufficient supplies | More safety info | Personal locator beacons

People walking the trail should carry a personal locator beacon (PLB)

PLBs are small electronic devices that can you can activate in an emergency to alert the search and rescue authorities that you or someone else needs help.

When you are walking Te Araroa you should carry a personal locator beacon (PLB). Do not rely on your mobile phone. There are many areas of the trail where you will not have phone coverage.

You can hire one from various suppliers in New Zealand, or you can buy one.

New Zealand Search and Rescue Beacons recommends a PLB with GPS capability. This reduces the time it takes to get a location for the beacon.

NZ Search and Rescue Beacons

Before you go

  • A distress beacon (PLB) is an emergency device. Only use it in a life-threatening situation or when a serious injury has occurred. It is not a taxi service.
  • Registering a New Zealand coded 406 MHz distress beacon is a legal requirement in New Zealand. You can do this for free on New Zealand Search and Rescue Beacons’ website.
  • Note: You do not need to register a hired beacon. The beacon will be registered to the hire organisation, which will hold details of your hire and trip intentions. Make sure you provide as much information as possible about your planned trip on the hire form. If you activate the beacon, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) will seek your trip information from the hire organisation.
  • Consider carrying more than one device, particularly if in a group.
  • Make sure you know how to use your PLB. Check it is in good working order and the battery hasn’t expired. Some units have test functions. Otherwise, you should ask the service agent of your device for battery replacements or repairs, or consider replacing or upgrading your PLB.
  • A PLB does not replace good planning. Follow the five simple rules of the New Zealand Outdoor Safety Code: plan your trip, tell someone where you’re going, be aware of the weather, know your limits, and take sufficient supplies.


  • Carry your PLB on your person. There are many reasons you may become separated from your pack.
  • If you need to activate your PLB, remember:
    • PLBs operate best with a clear view of the sky. Take it outside and away from any tin roof if you are at a hut.
    • Stay put once you have activated your PLB, as long as it is safe to do so. If you are unsafe move to a nearby safer location, if you can.
    • Do not turn off your PLB once it is activated.
    • Help will arrive as soon as possible but will depend upon your location, the environmental conditions and the availability of a rescue.
  • Situations can deteriorate rapidly. If you are unsure about when to activate the PLB, it is better to activate it and get help – don’t wait until it’s too late.
  • If your PLB has been activated by accident, please call RCCNZ on +64 4 577 8030 (0508 4RCCNZ) as soon as possible to say that you do not need help. The duty staff will confirm you’re safe and ok. Then they will instruct you to turn off your PLB. If you cannot contact the RCCNZ, leave the PLB on and wait for a rescue to arrive. There is no penalty for inadvertent activations.
  • PLBs will work anywhere on the earth’s surface. The system is global and international. You can bring your overseas PLB whilst visiting and travelling in New Zealand, and take your New Zealand PLB with you when you travel overseas.

For more information about PLBs, including their use and care, visit the New Zealand Search and Rescue Beacons website.

NZ Search and Rescue Beacons

Next step

Page last updated: Oct 31, 2020, 3:01 PM