Australia was 'safer option' to sail to - Alan Langdon

Alan Langdon says he didn't plan to sail to Australia with his young daughter, but he was forced to after his tiny catamaran was damaged.

Mr Langdon left Kawhia Harbour with his six-year-old daughter, Que, to travel to Paihia, on December 17.

But when they hadn't arrived two weeks later, the pair were reported missing, and Que's mother hired a private investigator to try and track them down.

Almost 24 hours after he arrived in Ulladulla, NSW, Mr Langdon told Newshub the rudder broke four days into the trip and he was forced to change his plans.

"Sailing with one rudder, it limited our options," he says. "We went south quite a bit and we were quite a fair way off shore, and about the 1st of this year I decided Australia was a safer option to take."

New Zealand police only scaled back the search for Mr Langdon and Que on January 3, after searching the entire west coast from Wellington to Cape Reinga, and the east coast down to the Bay of Islands.

Earlier this month, police said it would be "foolhardy" for him to attempt to cross the Tasman, but Mr Langdon denies there was any danger and says the response to the pair's disappearance was "extreme".

"I don't think there was any danger, there was never any intention to have people out there looking for us. I don't think we were gone for that long."

He claims he was hoping for the weather to ease off so he could begin repairs on the broken rudder - but that never came.

"It was interesting, with one rudder, the sailing was interesting," he says. "We were at the mercy of the wind a lot."

Despite the difficulties, Mr Langdon arrived in Ulladulla on Wednesday afternoon, almost 3000km away from Kawhia Harbour.

Locals couldn't quite believe it when they saw the pair rowing into the bay.

"I thought this is from a movie, this is some movie stuff - I didn't expect that to happen," one resident told Newshub.

When Mr Langdon left Kawhia in mid-December he sailed off the radar, forcing an extensive search and rescue operation.

His boat was so well-stocked that even back then, there was talk he was headed for Australia.

"All he told his daughter was they were going on a big adventure and that was it," says Mary Smith, one of Mr Langdon's neighbours in Kawhia.

"Everyone wondered what was happening."

Private investigator Col Chapman was hired by Que's mother, Ariane Wyler, to investigate the pair's disappearance, and his gut instinct was that Mr Langdon was heading across the Tasman.

"It was being called foolhardy, there was a bit of doubt and I get that, I understand that, but it's good vindication for us because we were adamant that he was coming here," he told Newshub.

Even further away in Switzerland, Ms Wyler has been waiting for any news of her daughter.

Neither Mr Langdon nor Ms Wyler had been granted full custody of Que, and there was supposed to be a Family Court hearing in March.

For Ms Wyler, there was no holding back the excitement when she got the news that her daughter was okay.

"She was woken up at about 1am with the good news, initially she thought it was a dream," Mr Chapman says. "She was thrilled, she's over the moon, she's elated."

Whether Mr Langdon was intending to head for Australia or not, he was taking big risks.

He didn't have a life-saving EPIRB, which connects the boat to search and rescue, or three forms of communication - both of which are required by law.

And Que's passport was being held by the Family Court, which means she's now in Australia illegally.

Mr Langdon has dismissed it as a "clerical" issue and it was more important for him and Que to be safe.

"It's safety first - those types of things are clerical, paperwork, that's not an issue. Actually being safe is paramount and everything else takes a backseat," Mr Langdon says.

"I felt that coming to Australia was a safer option and turns out we're here and we're safe."

Mr Langdon has not committed a crime on Australian soil, meaning his punishment is now a matter for New Zealand authorities.

He says he doesn't have any plans to head back to New Zealand at the moment.