Neighbours have described the "frantic" search for a missing toddler -- and the moments the search turned to tragedy when the 1-year-old was found drowned last night.

The alarm was raised about 8pm when panicking family members were unable to find the little boy on their rural Kumeu property in northwest Auckland.

They called on neighbours to help them search as emergency services -- including a Westpac rescue helicopter -- descended on the area.

One neighbour, who wished not to be named, said she and her partner joined the "frantic search", first looking around their own place.


All the local properties have waterways or creeks running through them, she said. "There's a lot of watercourses out here."

She said the toddler was from a "lovely, average Kiwi family" who loved their horses and were always very friendly. She believed they had rented the property for some time.

"Family members came up to our property saying, 'Have you seen him?' and raised the alarm. It all happened quite quickly and it wasn't long after we started looking that we found him.

"He was found on their own property. Everyone has young kids around us. It's just absolutely tragic."

Another neighbour, who also wished not to be named, said the Westpac helicopter landed on her property.

"It's any family's worst nightmare," she said. "The child was so young; it's so awful."

Police spokesman Inspector Peter Raynes said the boy was found in "tragic circumstances".

He was taken to the Starship hospital in a critical condition, but later pronounced dead.

"The child was soon located by a family member in a nearby pond and was unresponsive.

"Attempts were made to resuscitate the child; however, they were unsuccessful.

"At this stage there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident and the death is being treated as a tragic accident."