The loss of the protruding shaft at the site that gave Shipwreck Bay its colloquial name may have left a greater hazard than the wreck itself.

The crankshaft from the paddle steamer Favourite, the kauri gum trade barge wrecked at Te Kohanga, at Ahipara, on April 1, 1870, was an indicator of the surf break for surfers as much as it marked a historic maritime event.

The rusted wrought iron shaft vanished in mid-August, although it had been the target of ''flagpole'' type attacks in the past.

Some surfers say that without the shaft sticking out of the water, the part of the boiler which is the only other remnant of the wreck still above the sand is a danger to surfers.

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Others says it is no more of a hazard than a rock or other natural feature under the water's surface, which surfers learn to be aware of or look out for.

One local man, who has surfed the area for 40 years and asked not to be named, described the shaft's disappearance ''as a shame''.

''It's like an old friend's gone.''

Surfers have always used the ''Shippies'' shaft to relate distances, as well as marking where the boiler lay underwater, he said.

''There are lot of learners who use Shipwreck Bay because it's safe.''

It is thought the shaft succumbed to wild winter swells that had battered the west coast for weeks, but the complete disappearance of the heavy iron relic has some people stumped.

Northland Harbourmaster Jim Lyle said he had no immediate concerns about whether the shaft - if still lying in the sand - or the boiler wreckage was a hazard. Nobody had raised the issue with him, but staff would "take a look'', he said.

Ahipara man Reuben Waipari Porter admitted to trying to cut it away from the boiler remains in December 2014, a protest against offshore oil exploration.

Mr Porter said he only got part of the way through before giving up, having been asked to stop by members of the community.

''That shipwreck is historic junk. It is an insult that represents nothing but signs of the historic pillage of the environment and natural resources,'' he told the Northern Advocate.

Mr Porter said he was pleased the shaft was gone but had no idea what had happened.

The name Shipwreck Bay needed to go too, because Te Kohanga (the nursery) more accurately reflected the nature of the area, he said.