Police are hoping that a post mortem being carried out in Auckland today will answer some of the questions arising from the discovery of a man's body in the Awanui River, beneath the bridge in Allen Bell Drive, Kaitaia, yesterday.

The body was discovered by children shortly after 1pm, the officer in charge of the investigation, acting Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Dalzell saying police believed they knew his identity, but had yet to complete the formal identification process. Next of kin had been informed, however.

Dalzell said today that the death was being investigated as "unexplained."

He was unable to say there was no possibility of foul play, but was increasingly doubtful that there was.

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Initially it was suspected that the deceased was a local man whose family had reported him missing on Monday.

"Quite understandably his family were extremely concerned when the body was found on Tuesday, fearing that it might have been him," he said.

Initial identification had discounted that, however, and the 'missing' man had subsequently been located.

Police said a post mortem was carried this morning and a scene guard remains in place where the man's body was found.

"While formal identification is yet to take place, Police are satisfied we know the identity of the deceased man and we are continuing work with the family and the Coroner. A further update isn't expected until the results of the post mortem.''

Extracting the body from the river had not been quick or easy, however, requiring specialist assistance and an inflatable boat from Far North Surf Rescue.

"It took a bit of time, but eventually we were able to tell the first family that the body was not that of their loved one," Dalzell said.

"Obviously we are awaiting the results of the post mortem examination, but I think it is unlikely that foul play was involved."

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The body was removed late on Tuesday afternoon, but the cordons, at both ends of the bridge, were still in place today.

Meanwhile Dalzell understood that the children who found the body were none the worse for their experience, but would be referred to Victim Support if they wished to avail themselves of that assistance.