Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Little hope for missing boatie

File photo / Hagen Hopkins
File photo / Hagen Hopkins

There's little hope the 49-year-old boatie who disappeared after falling into Wellington Harbour yesterday evening will be found alive.

Senior Constable Craig Pickering of the Wellington Maritime Police Unit said searchers had scoured the Hutt River shoreline today without finding the man.

Weather conditions had improved but poor water visibility meant the Police National Dive Squad could not be deployed, Mr Pickering said.

"At this stage we don't hold much hope for him being found alive. If he had come up on that eastern shoreline, which was the most likely place, a member of the public would probably have found him - it's heavily used on a day like today and there's been a lot of people out and about.''

The search has been suspended for today, but conditions would be monitored and the dive squad might still be deployed.

The man, who was not wearing a life jacket, and a 29-year-old companion were in a small dinghy off the mouth of the Hutt River when they fell into the water just after 5pm.

They were retrieving a fishing net that had been set 20 metres from the shore.

It was "highly recommended'' that anyone in Wellington Harbour in a boat less than 6m long should wear a life jacket, Mr Pickering said.

He urged boaties to look at forecasts and the prevailing conditions before heading out and "make good decisions based on that''.

Police were still contacting family members and unable to release the name of the missing man. They have spoken to his partner, and his boating companion.

It was not known whether the man was an experienced boatie, and there had been no indication he knocked his head when he fell.

Alcohol was not believed to be a factor in the incident, police said.

- APNZ

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