Reporoa's tight-knit community has been left devastated by the news an 11-year-old boy has been shot dead.
Police confirmed today that the person who died in an incident in the Kaingaroa Forest near Taupo on Sunday afternoon was Reporoa boy, Connor Brian Phillips.
An adult member of a hunting party was unloading a firearm at the end of a hunt when Connor was shot.
Connor was a pupil at Reporoa Primary School.
A school newsletter praises Connor as one of 10 school pupils who made it through to the cluster swimming sports competition this year.
A spokeswoman at the school confirmed it had a trauma team on site and the school's flag was flying at half-mast.
In a media statement, the school's Board of Trustees said they and the community were "saddened at the tragic loss of a valued student".
"This young man was admired and respected by his peers. He was a great school leader and an amazing sportsman," the statement read.
"He will be dearly missed by the whole school community, our love and thoughts are with his family at this sad time."
The school has asked for privacy for the family, students and school community during this time.
Taupo mayor David Trewavas told the Rotorua Daily Post the news was "absolutely devastating".
"Our heart goes out to the families dealing with this tragedy. Any death in these circumstances is devastating, but especially given the age of the boy.
"It was a beautiful day, the end of the school holidays and there were lots of people out and about so it is heartbreaking to have this happen."
Mr Trewavas said he had no doubt the district would "rally around the community to do everything we can to help during this hard time".
A post-mortem examination will be carried out today.
Police will not be disclosing the outcome of the post-mortem and will be making no further comment until the conclusion of the investigation.
New Zealand Mountain Safety Council chief executive Mike Daisley expressed his condolences to the family.
"Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Connor Brian Phillips who was killed in a firearms incident in the Kaingaroa Forest, near Taupo, yesterday.
"This marks the fifth non-intentional firearms death this year - five too many. Incidents like this bring home the importance of keeping the seven basic rules of firearms safety front of mind at all times when handling a firearm, and always pointing your firearms in a safe direction.
"A moment's distraction can be enough to turn many lives upside down," Mr Daisley said.
Connor's family did not wish to make a comment at this stage.
A scene examination was conducted yesterday and police will be speaking to a number of people as part of the ongoing investigation.
A spokesman for Connor's family said they would not be commenting at this stage.
Reporoa is a small settlement located about 55km south of Rotorua with an estimated population of about 500 people, largely in the farming and agricultural industry.
The youngster's death would be "keenly felt" in the tight-knit community, Rotorua Lakes deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said.
He did not know the details surrounding the incident but said it was a tragedy for everyone in the family as well as their friends and neighbours.
"It's a small, tight-knit community," Mr Donaldson said.
"It will be keenly felt amongst them. Our thoughts are with them, particularly the family, and certainly with the Reporoa community in general."
Kaingaroa Forest is a permitted hunting area, used for bird, pig and deer hunting.
Hunting permits are issued by First Security, but a spokeswoman for the company refused to comment on whether the group had a permit to be on the land.
Firearms safety specialist Nicole McKee said she had no doubt the public's thoughts were with Connor's family after the tragedy.
It is likely the situation might have been avoided if the shooter had adhered to one or more of the seven basic principles of firearms safety, she said.
"One can only hope that others learn from the tragic situations that have occurred and check their foundations are intact before they venture out on their next hunt," she said.
The death comes after an earlier close call this month - when a stray bullet was shot through a caravan at the Cairnmuir Camping Ground as its occupants were watching television.
The incident is being investigated, and prompted police to issue a safety warning to hunters.
Firearms safety code:
1) Treat every firearm as loaded. Check every firearm and pass only an open or unloaded firearm.
2) Always point firearms in a safe direction.
3) Load a firearm only when ready to fire. Completely unload before leaving the shooting area.
4) Identify your target beyond all doubt. Remember movement, colour, sound and shape can be deceptive.
5) Check your firing zone. Do not fire knowing others are in your firing zone.
6) Store firearms and ammunition safely. When not in use, lock away the bolt, firearm and ammunition separately. Never leave firearms in a vehicle unattended.
7) Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms. Good judgement is key.