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Police found a man’s body which they believed to be Mr Watene (40), who went missing on April 16 at Longwood Forestry Block.
Otautau resident Adam McColl has been a friend of Mr Watene since the latter moved to Southland 15 years ago.
"Honestly, Dale was a really good person. He was loyal, a hard worker and a good father. He was the kind of guy who you could trust.
"He had his bad points — as everyone does — but he was a good guy in general."
Mr McColl said Mr Watene grew up in Huntly and moved to Otautau when he got a job at a dairy farm.
"He loved farming and trucks and liked to work with the things he loved.
"I remember — I think it was 10 years ago, he had an injury to his foot while he was working but he never slowed down. He did not want anyone to be sorry for him and did not want to let anyone down. He returned to work as quickly as he could"
Being a good father was another characteristic.
"He was a good father and never let his kids down. He tried his best for his kids."
The last time he spoke to Mr Watene was at the beginning of April.
"He wished me a happy birthday — one week before he went missing.
"It has been extremely hard. We all knew that this kind of news could come. I thought I was ready for this, but the news today . . . it was hard."
Detective Sergeant Chris Lucy said a formal identification process was under way and a postmortem was set for today.
"We will have a clearer understanding of the circumstances once the postmortem has been completed. "
Police offered their condolences to Mr Watene's family and friends.
Det Sgt Lucy asked anyone with information to contact him on (03) 211 0400 or, alternatively, information could be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.