An intensive air, sea and land search is being scaled back, following the disappearance of a 15-year-old who was swept out to sea at O'Neill Bay, west of Auckland, five days ago.

Zebedee Pua is understood to have wandered north over sand dunes with his brother after swimming between lifeguard flags, and was then caught in a rip.

Extensive searches have proved unfruitful, and all search and rescue personnel have been stood down, said Waitakere police tactical response manager Inspector Rod Fraser.

The police helicopter Eagle would continue to sweep the coastline twice a day, he said.


"The Police national dive squad has been in regular liaison with police and civilian personnel throughout the search of the treacherous waters and rugged coastline. Local surf club members will continue to use their IRBs (inflatable rescue boats). The lengthy search has been carried out in some difficult sea swells."

He said the search efforts were entering a recovery phase.

"The sea conditions will influence when this will occur. Locals will assist by monitoring these conditions."

Mr Fraser said police were continuing to liaise closely with the family.

By the time of the incident on Thursday, 12 people had drowned this year, compared with 15 at the same time in 2011.