Rough seas are continuing to prevent searchers from entering a cave by Paritutu Rock where three people went missing in a climbing tragedy.

Bryce John Jourdain, 42, and 17-year-olds Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Brazilian exchange student Joao Felipe Martins De Melo have been missing since the climbing expedition near New Plymouth on Wednesday.

The Spotswood College students fell into the sea and Mr Jourdain, a Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre (Topec) instructor, dived in to try to save them.

An extensive search has failed to find any sign of the missing three, who are now presumed drowned, and police yesterday said parts of the search would be scaled back.


Police incident controller Inspector Frank Grant this afternoon said searchers were out on the water again today in Taranaki Surf Lifesaving inflatable rescue boats (IRBs).

"They attempted to go into parts of the cave area underneath Paritutu Rock, however the water conditions were too rough which has made it difficult to search this area today.''

About 50 searchers including police, search and rescue personnel, Army Territorials and Red Cross were completing a further shoreline search.

Mr Grant said the search would continue throughout the course of the weekend.

"Our focus remains on returning the bodies of Bryce, Stephen and Felipe home to their loved ones.''

An Air Force Iroquois today completed a final aerial search along the coastline from New Plymouth to Opunake before leaving the area.

Mt Grant said a number of volunteers were also conducting their own searches along the coastline today.

"The support from the New Plymouth community has been huge over the past few days. Again, we'd like to thank all of the volunteers and organisations who have assisted us so far.''

Police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Andrew Ross earlier told APNZ the conditions this morning were clear, but rain was expected this afternoon and for the next few days.

"This morning's our best chance over the next couple of days of an opportunity for visibility - to be able to see something.''

Mr Ross said while some aspects of the search were scaled back, that did not mean police were reducing their efforts in recovering the bodies.

"We still have the same, if not more people on the coast today doing the whole coastline.''

There would also be five surf IRBs checking areas and two kayakers checking the port where boats are moored.

Mr Ross said the police dive squad were monitoring the conditions but so far swells had been too big for them to search.

The only student to survive a fall from the rock face told TVNZ's Close Up yesterday pure panic ran through his mind as he thought he would not survive.

Campbell Shaw had said they were not wearing harnesses at the time of the incident, but said they were standing on a flat area of rock and the instructors did what they could to protect them.

"We weren't supposed to be going to the rock, we were supposed to be doing something else, but the decision was to go there and it was a fine day, and then as soon as we got there the clouds came over, it was raining.''

The group was excited about the activity and everyone thought it was a "harmless climb''.

But at a certain point the waves got too big, he said.