A significant search and rescue operation in Northland has been suspended until tomorrow as rescue crews were unable to locate a report of two missing people after four hours.

Coastguard was alerted by police of reports of two people stranded by an overturned dinghy in Oakura Bay at 6.30pm.

The bay is about 50km north of Whangarei on the east coast of the North Island.

A Defence Force Orion airplane in the area was called to assist as were as a Northland Rescue Helicopter, two Coastguard boats and multiple private vessels.

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Mayday signals were also sent on VHF radio.

Coastguard duty officer Hemi Manaena said the response was appropriate because it was reported one person was a child and one person did not have a lifejacket.

After four hours the search was suspended at 10.30pm because the Coastguard was satisfied that if people had been in the bay they would have found them.

Police said the search would continue tomorrow morning.

Police could not find any vehicles or boat trailers while searching on the bay, a spokeswoman said.