A body has been found by police divers searching for a man missing at a popular waterfall spot in the Bay of Plenty.

Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams, officer in charge of the police national dive squad, said the six-man team was able to find and recover the body after 55 minutes in the water.

The body was found underwater and was not visible from the surface, he said.

Adams said he hoped the recovery would provide some closure for family and friends, and the community.

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The search area was reasonably contained, he said, but the water was cold and visibility bad due to silt.

At its deepest the pool was 9.5m deep.

Friends and family look on as a body is recovered at Omanawa Falls. Photo / John Borren
Friends and family look on as a body is recovered at Omanawa Falls. Photo / John Borren

New Zealand police divers and emergency services have spent the day searching for a man who went missing at the falls yesterday, before the body was found at about 1.30pm.

The man was confirmed as a Waikato University student.

The man came to New Zealand in November from India to study towards his Masters' degree, a friend said.

He was among a group of Waikato University students swimming in the pool at the base of the falls yesterday when he went missing mid-afternoon.

The university released a statement from director of student services Mike Calvert, who said the university's thoughts were with the family and friends of the missing student.

"We are offering them all the support we can at this incredibly difficult time."

"Our staff are in contact with the other students involved in the incident as well as those who are on the same course as the missing man, and are making sure they have access to all appropriate student services and assistance."

Meanwhile Stuff has reported the woman who called 111 did so after another tourist came running up the path for help because she was German and did not know the emergency number.

After calling 111 the woman went back but found there was nothing she could do as the man had been underwater for more than 10 minutes.

Earlier, a drone was blamed for delaying the arrival of the police dive squad to search for the missing swimmer at Omanawa Falls.

The drone is reported to have been flown in Tauranga airspace this morning and it was understood police were searching for the operator.

Tauranga Airport manager Ray Dumble said a flight was delayed for about 15 minutes because a drone was being flown around the vicinity of the Trinity Wharf hotel on Dive Crescent.

It was understood the delayed flight was carrying members of the dive squad from Wellington. The divers arrived at the site by late morning and began the trek down to the falls.

The police dive squad unpack their specialist equipment near Omanawa Falls. Photo / George Novak
The police dive squad unpack their specialist equipment near Omanawa Falls. Photo / George Novak

A police spokesperson confirmed air traffic control alerted police at 9.50am to the presence of a drone seen flying near the Trinity Wharf Hotel and nearby apartments.

"They advised they have had to stop aircraft flying because of it," she said.

"Police arrived at that location at 9.55am and have not seen any drones. We have advised air traffic control of that."

Air New Zealand called for tighter regulations around the use of drones last month after a near miss with an international flight approaching Auckland Airport.

Pilots operating Air New Zealand flight NZ092 from Haneda, Tokyo encountered a drone estimated to be just 5m away from the 777-200 aircraft during its descent into Auckland.

Veteran TV journalist Rod Vaughan blamed a drone for smashing the windscreen of his two-seater Aeroprakt Foxbat light plane, which he was forced to crash land near Waihi last month.

Meanwhile, a rescue team from Hamilton arrived at the Omanawa Falls search scene this morning, as well as local police and council representatives.

Rescue services near Omanawa Falls, where a swimmer has gone missing. Photo / George Novak
Rescue services near Omanawa Falls, where a swimmer has gone missing. Photo / George Novak

A group of about a dozen students have also arrived with staff in a Waikato University van.

A spokesman earlier said the missing man was a student of the university and was with a group of students yesterday when he went missing. The man did have some family in New Zealand.

Neighbours of Omanawa Falls said they expected something terrible to happen since the dangerous beauty spot's internet fame exploded in recent years.

Gates and signs warning people that the access track is closed and dangerous have been no deterrent, with hundreds of tourists visiting each summer and documenting their travels on social media.

Neighbours said the tourists caused huge problems - from cars blocking driveways to people defecating alongside the road.

Then there were the regular emergency callouts - three in the past few weeks, said two neighbours who spoke on the condition they not be named.

"We've been dreading something like this happening," one said. "Someone is going to come out in a body bag."

She did not know how the swimmer got into trouble, but said the water at the falls at this time of year it would be "absolutely freezing".

People had also been known to climb to the top of the 35m high falls and jump into the pool below.

To get to the falls, people first have to jump over a closed stock gate.

From there they walk down an uneven 4WD track to another set of tall wire gates.

Usually shut, the gates have been unlocked and opened today to allow access to searchers.

The gates, however, have been no barrier to determined visitors, who have cut holes in the fencing to get through.

Warren Aitken, team leader of Tauranga City Council's parks and environment team, has described the rest of the track down to the falls as "really dangerous".

Whether people try to scoot down the steep cliffs, clamber down narrow, 100-year-old ladders, or use the slippery tunnel and wooden stairs, they risked serious injury.

Aitken said he was not aware of any previous fatalities at the falls.

In February last year, a 24-year-old man sustained serious back injuries after jumping about 18m into the falls and landing badly prone.