Tragedy has marred the new year in the Far North, with two suspected drownings in four days and the first road fatality on Monday.

The body of a 65-year-old local man, who had gone fishing in a small boat off Motukaraka Pt, on the north side of the Hokianga Harbour, was recovered on Monday night, less than three hours after he was reported missing.

Police, the Hokianga Coastguard, Coastguard Air Patrol and local residents mounted a search for the man, named by his hapū Ngāi Tūpoto ki Motukaraka as Bruce Ngapera. The hapū has imposed a rāhui on the Tapuwae River, covering the Matawera, Tapuwae, Motukaraka Island and Te Wharau areas, until further notice.

Meanwhile, a 44-year-old Kaikohe man died on Friday while diving near a rocky islet off Moturoa Island, near the Black Rocks, in the Bay of Islands on Friday. Commercial dive operators, family members, police and Coastguard searched for him before his body was found on the sea floor by a friend of the family.


He marked the spot with a guide rope so members of the police National Dive Squad could recover his body that evening.

A rāhui was lifted by local hapu Ngāti Kawa on Monday, after the man, whose name has yet to be formally released, was buried.

The Far North's first road fatality of the year resulted from a collision between a truck and a motorcyclist on the middle of the three bridges on SH1 at Kawakawa on Monday afternoon.

Kawakawa Chief Fire Officer Wayne Martin, who was first on the scene, said it appeared that the motorcyclist, from the Kawakawa/Moerewa area, had been overtaking other traffic as he rode south, and had been unable to pull out of the truck's path. He died at the scene.

Traffic was diverted via Paihia and State Highway 11 for more than four hours, with one lane reopening at 9.30pm, to allow the Serious Crash Unit to begin its investigation.