Gulf Livestock 1: Loved ones of Kiwi crew missing from sunken ship plead with Govt for answers as Simon Bridges demands action now

A long time friend of one of the men missing from a sunken livestock ship says he is desperate for action from the Government.

Cameron Black has known Lochie Bellerby since highschool - the pair grew up together in Southland. 

The cattle ship went missing during a typhoon in early September while sailing from New Zealand to China carrying Kiwi crew members Lochie Bellerby and Scott Harris.  

Now, Black is fighting for answers from a Government he says seems to have given up. 

He says the Government seems to have classed the search as a "lost cause", leaving the families of the 40 missing men without answers.

"We just want something happening now - these 40 families are all holding out hope for their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands to come home," he told Newshub.

In a statement on Saturday Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters, said the Government was "exploring the viability of working with partners" to search for the black box from the ship - but there was no mention of searching for the men who had been aboard it.

"We know how much it would mean to the families of those on the ship to understand more about what happened to cause this tragic loss of life," Peters said. 

Black says there is strong evidence the men are still alive.

"Testimony [from one of the survivors] says they were trying to get into the lifeboats and there are three liferafts and a lifeboat still unaccounted for," he said.

"So you have to think there's a high likelihood they're out there."

He told Newshub the situation is heart-wrenching.

"I know if it was me, Lochie would be doing everything to find me. All 40 of these men are survivors - that just adds to our hope that they're out there somewhere.

"They must be in a lifeboat, saying 'it's okay, people are looking for us' - and that's what we're trying to do."

It comes as National's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Simon Bridges is calling for the New Zealand Government to renew the search for the two Kiwis. 

Family members of the pair have been relayed information from marine experts who have developed "credible scenarios" suggesting that it is possible the Kiwis are still alive on a life raft while Harris' loved ones believe they have evidence to suggest Scott could have survived the ship capsizing.

"One of the families know the cell phone was ringing a long time after the ship had gone down so you know that's credible evidence it wasn't submerged," Bridges told Newshub. 

Rather than rescuing the two men, Bridges says that the government has been focusing on retrieving the black box from the ship in order to find out how the ship capsized.

"My sense is that there is not active searching happening at the moment. I've written to the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters this morning sending out some hopes of the families," Bridges said.

"Kiwis don't ask for much from the government but when you know there's families involved in something like this you expect to see the government, if not doing the searching themselves, then certainly working with the government of the likes of Japan, for example, to try and see the search continues.

"They deserve people to continue to search for them. "

The ability to credibly project where the life rafts are will be unpredictably impacted by weather, diminishing the likelihood of finding the Kiwis.

"The urgency of the situation couldn't be more important," said Bridges. "Time is of the essence."

A GoFundMe has raised more than $28,000 to aid the search for the men. The cash will go towards satellite and drone surveillance technology and chartered search and rescue vehicles.

Black says the support of the community means everything.

"It just shows everyone believes there's still a chance these guys are alive - people want them to be found."

But with no indication from the Government about when or how a search will take place, Black says the families are left in limbo.

"Everyone is devastated - it's just so hard to wait, knowing that every minute, hour, day that goes by that window of opportunity to find them alive is closing."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Newshub it understands the families of the missing men are under extreme stress.

"Our New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo remains in close contact with the Japan Coast Guard and is passing any new information obtained by the family to Japanese authorities. 

Japan Coast Guard continue to perform patrols of the area and provide updates."

Newshub has contacted Winston Peters for comment.