Rescue boats are on their way to a 12m tug which is in trouble off Auckland's Eastern Beach.
Crew on the tug, believed to be an old vessel, called the coastguard early today and said it was taking on water north of Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf, coastguard duty officer Mark Leevers said.
Two boats were sent out to help but when they could not find the tug, it was asked to let off a flare. A member of the public spotted the flare south-east of its reported position.
Rescue boats and a helicopter were on their way to the tug but no details were available about who was on board or the extent of the trouble.
Mr Leevers said the crew may not have been familiar with the area and that, combined with poor visibility and bad weather, may have confused them about their position.
"It is an old 40ft (12m) tug. That is all the information I have," Mr Leevers told NZPA.
Weather forecasters issued a storm warning for Auckland yesterday, saying winds could gust to 100km/h in exposed areas.
Warning signs on the northern motorway urged motorists to take extreme care on the Auckland harbour bridge because of the high winds and on State Highway 1 between Auckland and Wellsford.
Forecasters said 100km/h winds were not highly damaging but could break boats from their moorings and make driving extremely hazardous for high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists.