A rahui remains in place over a small part of Lake Rotoiti, as the search continues for a man who is presumed drowned after jumping off a boat on the lake on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old Auckland man has not yet been found, despite more than 16 hours of searching more than 3ha of Lake Rotoiti by the police dive squad.

The man, described by his brother as a strong swimmer, jumped off the boat to retrieve his hat when it blew off. His lifejacket came off and he drifted away from the boat, where his partner and 9-year-old son were unable to get to him.

Three extra divers joined the search yesterday and a special machine was brought in to help with the search.


Rotorua Constable Colin Fraser from Search and Rescue said the machine, a sonar, meant they could search areas without the divers.

It used sound propagation to navigate, communicate with or detect objects on or under the surface of the water, he said.

"It will speed things up a bit. We are still confident we will find him. It's not a question of if he is there, it's just a matter of looking.

"We have had three more divers join us from Wellington [today], making the total six."

He said the man's family were all back at the wharf on Otaramarae Rd yesterday morning as the divers left.

"We are hoping for a quick result for the family. As far as the dive squad goes, they are really optimistic and their search is going well."

He said the family had been back and forth between the wharf and where they were staying.

"They plan on sticking around until he is found. The locals have been bringing down baking and cups of teas for them."

He said the rahui was in place from the boat ramp on Otaramarae Rd out to the 400m markers in the bay.

"It will be in place until the body is found, then we will contact the iwi and they will come and it will be the family's decision on how soon it gets lifted."