The man who went missing while visting Omanawa Falls was a Masters student at the University of Waikato who arrived in New Zealand from India in November.
The Hamilton-based international student, who the Bay of Plenty Times has chosen not to name, went missing mid-afternoon on Sunday while at the falls with two classmates near the picturesque pool at the bottom of the 35m-high waterfall surrounded by native bush.
A six-man team from the New Zealand Police National Dive Squad recovered a body early on Monday afternoon after a short search of the pool.
It's believed to be the first fatality in Omanawa Falls Park, though several people have been seriously injured on the notoriously dangerous access track - which has been closed for years.
Yesterday, a Ngati Ranginui kaumatua blessed the track and the deceased as the body was brought up out of the valley.
In an emotionally charged moment, a group of a dozen of the man's friends, family and classmates - who had kept a quiet vigil at the top of the track all day - were allowed a short time to say a tearful goodbye before the hearse left.
They were supported by staff and a chaplain from Waikato University.
In a statement, director of student services Mike Calvert said the university was working to support the students involved in the incident, as well as those on the same course as the man.
"We are offering them all the support we can at this incredibly difficult time," Calvert said.
Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams, officer in charge of the dive squad, said a large part of their role was about providing closure for family, friends and the community.
Adams said the squad, which included five officers from Wellington and one local member, spent 55 minutes in the water conducting a grid search of the pool and recovering the body.
It was found submerged and was not visible from the surface.
The search area was reasonably contained, Adams said, but the water was cold and visibility bad due to silt. At its deepest, the pool was 9.5m deep.
A fire service team specialising in ropes rescues helped the squad access the difficult site down a track Tauranga City Council parks and environment team leader Warren Aitken described as steep, slippery and "really dangerous".
He said he did not know of any other deaths in Omanawa Falls Park.
Neighbours of the park, who for years have raised concerns with authorities about the park's dangers and growing popularity with adventurers willing to ignore warning signs and find ways around padlocked gates, told the Bay of Plenty Times they had been expecting someone to die in the park.
"We've been dreading something like this happening," said one, who spoke on the condition she not be named. "Someone is going to come out in a body bag."
Dive squad delayed by drone report
A plane carrying members of the Wellington-based police national dive squad was delayed on arrival yesterday due to a report of a drone being flown in Tauranga Airport airspace.
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.
A police spokesperson confirmed air traffic control alerted police at 9.50am to a sighting of a drone near the hotel.
Police went to the hotel but did not find any drones.