An aerial search has been launched for possible occupants of a dinghy that was found upturned near Port Waikato on Christmas day.

Coastguard New Zealand and Maritime Police began searching for the occupants of the boat after an appeal was aired yesterday urging the owners of the vessel to come forward.

The boat, described as a light grey 10ft aluminium ParkerCraft dinghy named "Parauroa'', was located about 1.30pm by a family who were fishing about 7 miles (11km) off Sunset Beach.

Senior constable of the Auckland Police Maritime Unit Kevin Stone told the Herald they had received multiple sightings of the boat with people in it since the appeal, which had led to further investigations.

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Police are seeking any information about the boat and its occupants. Photo / NZ Police
Police are seeking any information about the boat and its occupants. Photo / NZ Police

"At the moment, the last known sighting of the boat with people in it was on Saturday afternoon at Grahams Beach, which is just inside the Manukau Heads on the peninsula," he said.

"It has been seen with one or two people but we don't currently have anybody overdue or anyone missing according to reports."

Stone said the boat was "very distinctive" and someone was bound to recognise it.

"It is exceptionally common but it is not new. It is quite an old style and the name is unique.

"There is a little wooden structure on the front which most people use to hold on to when they are crossing a bar and a little 15 horse power outboard attached."

The boat also had a red Suzuki brand gasoline tank attached and a length of striped yellow rope.

Stone said Coastguard Air Control have been searching an area off the West Coast between the Manukau Heads and Sunset Beach.

"At the moment it is such a vast area and a big expanse of time that the search is pretty general.

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The boat, described as a light grey 10ft aluminium ParkerCraft dinghy named Parauroa, was located off Sunset Beach.
The boat, described as a light grey 10ft aluminium ParkerCraft dinghy named Parauroa, was located off Sunset Beach.

"We have air patrol doing some searching along the West Coast and we are just about to initiate some stuff at various boat ramps and places like that in the Manukau Harbour where these people may have launched from.

"We will also liaise with the Eagle Police Helicopter and try and get them to do some low tide searches."

He said no marine assets were currently involved in the search.

"At the moment we have just found a boat and we don't have anybody missing, nobody has been in distress and there were no alerts, but you always have to look at the worst case scenario."

He said no other items of interest had been found during today's searches.

"At the moment we just really need public information. It is one of those jobs where we are struggling to find where it came from."

Anyone with information is advised to contact the Police Maritime Unit on 0800 102 835.