The search for a 48-year-old man missing off a boat on Lake Rotoiti has been suspended for the night and will tomorrow become a "recovery operation".

Inspector Ed Van Den Broek said police were notified at 2.10pm today the man had not resurfaced after jumping off the boat. Inital reports were that he had fallen from the boat.

He had been on the boat with his family.

The search has now been suspended for the night and will resume in the morning.

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The search will be changed to a recovery operation and the police dive squad will be deployed.

The man's family were being supported by other family members, friends, police, Victim Support and local residents, Mr Van Den Broek said.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Sir Toby Curtis said he suspected there would be a rahui placed on the lake.

A rahui was done first and foremost out of respect to the family, and out of respect to the environment, as well as being a way to remind people of their responsibility to the greater community, he said.

He said the conditions of a rahui - a form of tapu - depended on the incident and would be decided when appropriate.

Earlier:

The search for a 48-year-old man missing on Lake Rotoiti has been scaled back.

A police spokesman said the search by helicopter had been suspended, and the number of boats searching for the man had been reduced from eight to four.

The helicopter had spent 90 minutes in the air looking for the man, who fell off a boat this afternoon and failed to resurface.

He said the two other people who were on the boat with the man at the time he went missing had returned safely to shore.

The police dive squad were on their way to Rotorua and unless the man was found tonight, they would be deployed in the morning, he said.

Coastguard Rotorua president Barry Grouby said he understood the man was on the boat with a woman and child.

He said he was not sure if the man was wearing a life jacket or if he was thrown one after he fell.

It was also unclear how the man fell, he said.

"Conditions are pretty rough out there making the search a bit difficult on the lake surface," he said.

Mr Grouby said the Coastguard had had excellent help from the harbourmaster and other boaties on the lake.

Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker
Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker

Rotorua-based BayTrust Rescue Helicopter pilot Ben Fry said the helicopter had been up in the air for about two hours, but weren't able to find the man.

He said the conditions on the lake were moderate with the wind making "a few little waves".

Mr Fry said the helicopter was able to cover quite a big area during its time in the air.

"Starting from the last-known point [the man was] you expand from there."

He said the helicopter was also used to help the boats when they spotted something.

"We can cover a lot of ground in a small time."

Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker
Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker

St John Ambulance Lakes area acting territory manager Liesa Tocknell said one ambulance had been called out but had since left the scene.

The search is being co-ordinated from the Rotorua Police Station.

Earlier:

A search is under way at Lake Rotoiti after a man fell off a boat and failed to resurface.

A police media spokesman said it was understood three people were on board the boat when the man fell overboard and failed to resurface.

A rescue helicopter was at the scene north of Rotorua, along with Coastguard, police, ambulance and the Rotorua Harbourmaster.

Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker
Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker

He said eight boats were on the water searching for the man.

Coastguard Rotorua president Barry Grouby said he was at the scene at Otaramarae.

He said the harbourmaster, Coastguard and police were searching an area around Otaramarae Bay and Te Karaka Bay.

"We also have a helicopter in the air, it's a very busy scene," he said.

Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker
Lake Rotoiti search for missing boatie. 04 January 2017 Daily Post photograph by Stephen Parker

The call to emergency services was received at 2.11pm.

A witness, who was at a bach near the scene, said it was a spooky feeling.

She said boats had been searching the area and a helicopter had been circling overhead.

A flare had also been set off, she said.

The woman described the lake as "a wee bit choppy".

MetService forecaster Tuporo Marsters said Rotorua was experiencing moderate southwesterlies, and the wind was 31km/h gusting up to 57km/h.

He said the marine forecast was for waves of less than half a metre.