Police are searching for a woman with special needs who has gone missing in the Mt Thomas Forest Conservation area in Waimakariri in Canterbury.

Monique Hickland, 31, left her family near the Wooded Gully picnic area at 4:30pm today.

She was wearing a black jacket, red jersey, navy blue pants and canvas sneakers.

Police said Hickland has the understanding of a 12-13 year old.

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There are currently five search teams in the area - LandSAR volunteers and Police - and two dog teams.

Police would like to hear from anyone who has seen or heard from Hickland since she has been missing or been in the Mt Thomas area this afternoon.

Information can be passed to Christchurch Police on (03) 363 7400.