The family of missing Rotorua man Nigel Peterson are asking Tauranga and Bay of Plenty people to watch out for him in case he turns up in the area.

Nigel is autistic and his family is concerned his difficulties in communicating with strangers may mean he is lost further afield than Rotorua.

The 33-year-old went missing on Friday between 3pm and 5pm. He was living in a flat on Otonga Rd and problems with the hot water cylinder meant he and his housemates had to relocate.

Nigel's sister Michelle Peterson said Nigel may have misunderstood this and thought he was not able to return to the home he loves.

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Michelle said the family had relatives in Whakatane and Nigel may have been trying to get to them. He may have got lost or not been able to articulate properly where he wanted to go.

"He might be trying to head there and might have got it completely wrong," Michelle said.

"He's vulnerable. He doesn't know how to communicate with strangers.

"He's very unsure about people. He might not approach people but he will be very noticeable, he will be very distressed."

Michelle and Nigel's other family members hoped people in Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty would keep a close eye out for him.

"He has not used his Eftpos card since Friday so he might be somewhere we haven't looked."

Nigel would be easy to spot as his distress would be obvious, she said.

"He will look like someone whose life has come crashing down and they don't know how to deal with it."

Michelle described her brother as slim and of medium height. On the day he went missing, he was believed to have been wearing a green T-shirt, light brown pants, brown sneakers, and possibly a denim jacket.

Nigel would likely be wringing his hands and could be talking to himself. Michelle said Nigel walks with quite an unusual gait and leans to the side a bit as he moves.

Constable Colin Fraser told the Rotorua Daily Post this morning Land Search and Rescue squads from Rotorua and Tauranga were today concentrating on the Otonga Rd and Old Taupo Rd areas.

Fraser said the teams would ask people to look around their properties for the missing man.

He said until now the search teams had focused on open spaces, including parks, reserves, schools, retirement homes and hospitals.

Nigel could be at someone's property without their knowledge, Fraser said.

"He could have easily wandered into the backyards and be in a garage. He could be sitting on a chair at the back of a garage waiting to be found because he wouldn't necessarily be able to seek his own help."

Rotorua police asked anyone who may have seen Nigel to contact them on (07) 349 9139.