The New Zealand Airforce is helping search for a vessel and its nine occupants who disappeared on a return leg to Fiji's Totoya Island.

Local search and rescue began looking for the vessel on Christmas Day and the Fijian Rescue Coordination Centre asked for Kiwi help through the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand.

New Zealand has sent a P-3K2 Orion, which Air Force Air Commodore Darryn Webb said was "uniquely equipped" for the search.

"[It] is the best means to locate missing boats in the South Pacific," Webb said.


In 2016 the NZDF flew 234 hours on 19 search and rescue missions in New Zealand and the Pacific - a 59 per cent increase from the 147 flying hours in 2015.

In their last search and rescue mission in October, the NZDF searched for three Kiribati fishermen who went missing for four days in the Pacific Ocean.