All becomes clear when you know the missing diver found far away in Clive is an economist

It’s been a funny old business, the disappearance of that diver around Titahi Bay who finished up alive and well in Hawke’s Bay .

Nah, it obviously had nothing to do with the tides. He got to the Hawke’s Bay, we may suppose, over land.

But meanwhile a major search effort was under way for him in the bloody sea.

And then you learn that the bugger who disappeared on one side of the North Island and turned up on the other side is an economist.

Economists notoriously get it wrong when they tell us where we are going and how long it will take to get there.

Stuff today is telling us the story of the missing economist, a bloke called Colin Smithies.

Colin Smithies, from Wellington, was last heard from when he texted his wife on Monday night to say he had found a good place to dive at Titahi Bay, near Porirua.

She alerted police later that night, prompting a land, sea and air search involving more than 40 people which lasted for two days. Police say the search cost about $50,000.

More than 40 people were involved in the search for Smithies, including volunteers, some from the Wairarapa, Maritime Police and the dive squad, the Westpac rescue helicopter, the Coastguard and surf lifesavers.

The police and search team had good reason to suppose they were looking in the right place.

Smithies’ car had been found on a Titahi Bay street near the beach while his backpack was found on the water’s edge.

Police said they had two reported sightings of him in the area and they had found two separate sets of clothing nearby.

But lo and behold, Smithies walked into a Hawke’s Bay police station almost 300km from where he disappeared the next day around 5pm.

So how did he get there?

Detective Sergeant Donna Howard reckons Smithies left Titahi Bay on foot and hitch-hiked north.

And why would he leave his family thinking he had been lost at sea?

Good question.

Something to do with family issues and/or maybe a nervous breakdown of some sort, Alf suspects on learning there was no reason to think Smithies had been taken to Clive against his will.

It is significant that Smithies is still undergoing medical treatment.

Smithies has shown remorse, Howard said.

“Obviously Mr Smithies has some issues he is dealing with and I’d like to leave it at that.”

“I think perhaps that we’ve referred him to medical professionals may give you a good indication of where he’s at.”

Smithies handed himself in because he wanted to get back to his family, Howard said.

In light of the huge effort to look for someone a few hundred kilometres from his actual whereabouts, the bugger has been charged – and reasonably so – with wasting police time.

Part of the explanation for the mystery disappearance – Alf is sure – resides in his job.

He had been a publican in Tapanui, Southland, but made a career change to become a university lecturer in economics. He is now employed as a senior economist at the Commerce Commission.

Anyone who gives up a job as a publican must be seriously short in the marbles department.

Giving up pumping beer to become an economist confirms Alf’s belief.

When he arrived at the Clive police station Smithies was “disorientated and quite distressed”, Howard said.

This is a condition common to economists.

Their disorientation becomes obvious every time their forecasts turn out to have been nonsense, which is often.

Alf is reminded of a quote by a bloke called Evan Esar:

“An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. ”

Chronic disorienation leads inevitably to distress.

Dunno why we have economists, actually. Maybe that thought crossed poor Smithies’ mind, too.

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