The dumping of an obsolete locator beacon in a recycling bin has led to a needless 21-hour search and wasted thousand of dollars, says the Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
Police, Search and Rescue and a helicopter crew from Rotorua responded when a former distress signal frequency was detected by aircraft over Tauranga on Monday.
Two old frequencies no longer tracked by satellite are now used for emergency communications with aircraft control towers.
It's the second time this year an emergency positioning indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, has been disposed of carelessly and been traced to a waste transfer station in Mt Maunganui.
Another beacon was dumped in May without having its battery disconnected first.