The search for missing two-year-old Emily Saunders has been put on hold until river conditions change.

Earlier today the search was called off and it will not resume tomorrow, police said.

The search, which included helicopters, had been going since Thursday when the four-wheel-drive Emily was in with her family was swamped by water in the Poerua River.

The body of 66-year-old Barry Petrie, who tried to save Emily, was found on Thursday afternoon.

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Her mother and father, Sandra and Michael Saunders, survived the harrowing ordeal.

They remembered Emily as a happy, cheeky little girl" and have paid tribute to Mr Petrie, saying his efforts to save her would not be forgotten.

Police said they will wait until conditions on and around Poerua River change to allow the Police National Dive Squad to enter the water.