A man's body found in the Waimakariri River bed in Canterbury last night has now been confirmed as a homicide.

A homicide investigation was under way this morning after the man's body was found just before 10pm near Harrs Rd, North Canterbury.

Detective Inspector Greg Murton said that the evidence is clear that it was a homicide.

However, he wouldn't comment on the nature of the injuries or if a weapon was involved.

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Next of kin will be advised today, he said, while a post-mortem will be held tomorrow.

The area is under police guard and a forensic examination would take place over the next few days, Murton said.

The cordon at Harrs Rd is in an isolated area surrounded by green fields and lifestyle blocks, located just off South Eyre Rd, Swannanoa.

The man's body lies a couple of hundred metres away on the banks of the Waimakariri River.

A stopbank is blocking any view of the scene.

Another cordon remains in place on Diversion Rd, creating a near 2km stretch along the river that's inaccessible to the public.

Residents on the road said they were only made aware of the discovery when they saw it in the news or were contacted by reporters.

One resident recalled the murder of Marie Davis in April 2008. The 15-year-old's body was found in a similar part of the Waimakariri River 11 days after she went missing.

The resident said police searched the riverbank and the area around their house then. In that instance she and her husband had heard a car racing up the road late at night.

This time they had been watching the election debate and had not heard anything, she said.

"You just feel very sad for all the people who are touched by such a tragedy... It's just horrid to hear of these tragedies."

She said the area was usually pretty safe although she would not walk along the river on her own because criminals were known to grow cannabis there.

Another resident said he went for a walk down the road about 5pm yesterday and didn't notice anything unusual.

Police would like to hear from anybody who was near Harrs Rd and South Eyre Rd yesterday between 8pm and 10.30pm.

Anyone with information can phone Christchurch Police on (03) 363 7400 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.