The body of missing four-year-old Gisborne boy Lucas Ward was found today in the Waimata River, nine days after he disappeared.

He was discovered about midday 400m upstream of his grandmother's property, by a member of the public on a surf ski kayak, police said.

The person was not part of an official search team.

The search for the gregarious young boy had centred on the river, with police divers scouring the area after his bike was found on a path leading to a river jetty. A chip packet was also recovered from the river, believed to be similar to one given to him by his grandmother shortly before he disappeared on Tuesday afternoon last week.

The discovery of Lucas' body was a relief for police and searchers, Gisborne area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said this afternoon.

"I'm sure this will bring some sort of closure for the family of Lucas," Mr Aberahama said.

"This is an incredibly distressing time and our thoughts are with them and their extended family as they grieve for their little boy."

A post mortem examination will be conducted and the case referred to the coroner.

Lucas went missing as his grandmother unloaded groceries and answered a phone call in her suburban Kaiti home.

His family still hoped to find him and continued looking for him after police scaled back their official search on Monday.

Dozens of searchers had looked for Lucas on land and water, including the Gisborne harbour entrance and city beaches.

Mr Aberahama said he was certain searchers had done all they can.

"It was important to keep an open mind and as such we carried out an extensive land search and search of the river as well," he told Radio New Zealand.

"[Finding the body] was a relief to my staff and those who searched."

"I am very confident in my staff that we did a good job"

Police had not discounted the possibility of foul play, but said there was no indication of anything sinister.

- NZ Herald staff, NZPA