A five-year-old autistic boy was found safe and well after a frantic search in Rimutaka Forest Park yesterday.

The boy had been walking with his family along the Orongorongo Track when he dashed ahead of the group.

A short time later his father ran ahead to catch up but couldn't find him.

Police were called about 4pm and began a search together with Land Search and Rescue personnel and a rescue dog.

It was raining and getting dark but "on a positive note'' the boy was wearing warm clothes, a police statement said.

It was believed the boy may not respond to searchers calling to his name, making their task more difficult.

The team had committed to searching thorough the night but the boy was found "safe and well'' at 9.10pm.

"It was a great effort by the search and rescue teams to locate the boy in very difficult conditions and police are relieved at the positive outcome.''