Remote and steep terrain confronted those searching for a two-year-old girl and her four-month-old puppy in Motueka, with the child's parents saying they could not fathom the distance she travelled in a short time.
The girl and dog were found about 11.20pm on Wednesday following a five-hour search by police, search volunteers, family and neighbours.
In a joint statement released on Thursday, police and the girl's parents said the offers for assistance as the search got under way made a difference.
"Police, many of them off-duty, LandSAR volunteers, locals, the Fire Service, local four-wheel drive club and neighbours ... came to the aid of the family," Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly said.
"We had an extraordinary amount of offers from people calling our communications centre and offering help via our Facebook page as well.
The family said the girl was left in the care of an adult siblings at the Little Sydney Road property, surrounded by bush - but she walked off.
"During this time both sets of people at the house assumed that she was with the other one [and] it was an hour later before it was noticed she was not there," they said.
"No one could have fathomed that she could have possibly covered the area and distance she did in such a short time."
But they said extensive media and Facebook coverage meant friends and family elsewhere knew of the drama unfolding before having a chance to inform them.
"The coverage also caused numerous people to arrive to help search.
"While this may seem like a good idea at the time, it is not... as the dense bush is challenging for the most experienced searchers, let along townies with no bush experience."