Reports of a missing swimmer this week near Tathra have turned out to be hoax.
Search teams were expected to return to the area near Gillards Beach in the MImosa Rocks National Park this morning (Saturday, August 17) but were stood down by police.
"Our understanding is that the situation was a hoax, but beyond that we don't have any other details," director of lifesaving for Surf Life Saving NSW Far South Coast Cheryl McCarthy told the Bega District News.
NSW Police South Coast District Chief Inspector Peter Volf confirmed that a 42-year-old Victorian man is wanted for making a false report to police. It's understood the man is also wanted in Victoria on separate alleged fraud matters.
"He's now wanted in two states," Inspector Volf told the Bega District News on Saturday morning.
While initial coverage of the search efforts at Gillards included the involvement and reports made to authorities by a twin brother, Inspector Volf said investigations have now revealed there was no twin brother and it was the man himself looking to assume the identity to thwart police investigations.
"It was a major response to the missing person report - it's very disappointing for all involved," Inspector Volf said.
As well as lay charges on the Victorian man, it's thought police would also likely seek compensation for the huge use of emergency response services, estimated at approaching $1million Inspector Volf said.
Search efforts began around 5.30pm on Wednesday, August 14, following reports a man had gone missing at Gillards Beach within Mimosa Rocks National Park, north of Tathra.
It was reported at the time that the man's twin brother, who was visiting the area with him, had left him at the beach and driven back into Tathra for a couple of hours.
Upon his return he found clothes and personal belongings on the beach but no sign of his brother.
NSW Police Marine Area Command was supported by emergency search teams from Surf life saving clubs up and down the coast, Merimbula and Bermagui Marine Rescue, Bega Valley SES volunteers, NSW Ambulance, PolAir and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
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Ms McCarthy said it was "frustrating and disappointing" for volunteers, who freely give of their time for these callouts, often in situations that aren't always safe for them either.
"We had 25 people involved over the three days, all volunteers. [But] there are lots of positives here that we can look to - there's no substitute for training than the real thing. And I'm really proud of the way they worked together."
The amount of resources expended across the three-day search goes beyond personnel as well Ms McCarthy said.
"There's the fuel costs, particularly with the Westpac helicopter and Toll Air Ambulance - we threww everything at this."
Westpac Life Saver Helicopter CEO Stephen Leahy said the use of the chopper cost in the order of $33,000.
"We flew for nine and a half hours over two days at a cost of $33,000 - that's a lot donations to lifesavers.
"No shadow of a doubt that's what emergency services are there for. But if another incident had occurred there was potential the resources would not have been available."
Inspector Volf praised everyone involved in the search saying it was a tremendous effort, although disappointing "and all for nought".
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