About WanderSearch

Wandersearch JUL2015_010

How does WanderSearch Work

WanderSearch Auckland uses a simple radio frequency tracking system called WandaTrak which is a New Zealand made product. Each client is given a tracking device to wear which comes in a variety of forms (see Equipment) and each device has a unique frequency. The devices are turned on using a magnet. Once turned on the tracking device emits an electronic pulse every 3 seconds which cannot be heard unless you have the receiving unit turned on and tuned into the frequency of that device. The batteries in the devices up to eight months however we change them every six months.

Without the receiving unit and knowing the unique frequency for a particular device to be dialled into the receiving unit, no-one can track the device.

When a person goes missing and a search commences, a receiving unit is sent towards the person’s last known location to locate the pulse. Once the pulse has been located, the Search personnel then triangulate the location of the pulse to narrow the search field down.

The range of this pulse can be heard up to 5 km from a high point using line of sight.

What about GPS Systems

WanderSearch Auckland has researched a number of GPS systems both nationally and internationally. The majority of the GPS systems available on the market at this stage are bulkier than the devices we currently use and have a battery life of up to 3 – 5 days. The GPS system requires access to a cellular network and access to a computer to track the person.

WanderSearch Auckland are working with a NZ technology company and should soon be testing a GPS tracking system which is smaller than the current ones on the market and has a greater battery capacity.

History of WanderSearch

The WandaTrak (as it was known in the early days) system was first used in Nelson in around 2006 / 2007 for people living with dementia who were wandering away from their residence. It was a faster, easier method for Search & Rescue to locate the missing person and return them to a safe environment.

In 2008, Police Search & Rescue personnel in Auckland became aware that they were attending an increasing number of callouts to search for people living with dementia who had wandered off from their place of residence be it a Rest Home or a private home / residence.

Searching for people living with this type of cognitive impairment is difficult as in large urban areas such as our bigger cities, they can easily be considered to be just another older person out taking their daily walk and therefore no-one takes much notice of them.

If they are engaged in conversation with someone, their conversation can be very believable and plausible and, unless you have dealt with someone living with dementia, it would be hard for the average citizen to realise that this person may need assistance even though they would deny it.

Auckland Police Search & Rescue and Auckland Land Search & Rescue volunteers searched the internet looking for a suitable tracking system which, while not preventing the person from wandering, would allow Search & Rescue personnel to locate the person quickly and easily and return them to a safe environment.


In 2008, Police statistics showed that one person a day living with dementia was reported missing to the police in the greater Auckland region.

In 2012, that number had increased to 2 people a day living with dementia.

This does not take into account people living with other cognitive impairments such as autism, Downs Syndrome, IHC, brain injury etc who were also reported missing to the Police.

Guiding Principles

Mission Statement:

To provide systems to assist those, in the greater Auckland region, who are cognitively impaired and have the potential to wander and to support their care-givers.”


That any cognitively impaired person in the greater Auckland region who has the potential to wander is provided with a WanderSearch device and is part of the WanderSearch programme.

Guiding Principles:-

WanderSearch Auckland ….

  • Acknowledges the right of all cognitively impaired individuals in the greater Auckland region to be kept safe in their community.
  • Endeavours to find a wandering client in the speediest manner possible using the most reliable equipment and methods available to WanderSearch Auckland.
  • Respects the privacy of its clients and their families and caregivers, and the confidentiality of any information given to WanderSearch Auckland.
  • Treats all its clients and their support people with dignity and courtesy.
  • Ensures its services are available to all clients according to their need, not according to their ability to cover associated costs.
  • Maintains its volunteers’ education of tracking systems; communication skills and fosters appreciation for their efforts to support WanderSearch Auckland.
  • Partners with agencies and organisations in Auckland and around New Zealand collaboratively and professionally.
  •  Manages its funds to maximise its front-line services.


The WanderSearch Tracking program is currently in use in approximately 30 areas around New Zealand.