The remains of a woman believed to have been murdered more than a decade ago lie in bushland in northern NSW, police say.

A team of homicide investigators on Monday started combing bush near Bellingen where they said the skeletal remains of Bernadette Donaldson, aged 46 at the time of her disappearance in 1998, are hidden.

Donaldson has not been seen since April 1998 when she had planned to fly to the Gold Coast to meet friends for a holiday.

However, she never made the trip and her luggage was found at the boarding house she owned at Dorrigo in the state’s north, not far from Bellingen.

A coronial investigation in 1999 provided little insight into her fate but Superintendent Mark Holahan said the unsolved homicide squad had taken on the case and was confident of finding answers.

“It’s not so much fresh evidence, but the unsolved homicide squad has taken the opportunity to reopen the matter 10 years on, in light of a few changes to the ways we can look at evidence,” Holahan told AAP.

“We have identified an area that may bring some results.

“All we can say at this stage is that it is an area in bushland near Bellingen but we are not saying specifically because we don’t want to risk contaminating the area.”

Supt Holahan would not be drawn on whether it was forensic evidence that led investigators to the area.

However, he conceded detectives were no longer pursuing forensic evidence linked to Donaldson, found inside a yellow Suzuki car at Grafton the same year as her disappearance.

Ten officers today started combing bushland and that work is expected to step up tomorrow.

“Tomorrow we expect to move on to a hand dig,” Holahan said.

Detectives expect to spend all week in the area.

“Donaldson is survived by relatives who would obviously like to know what happened to her or at least recover her remains, and the investigation team is hopeful the search will find valuable new information,” Holahan said.