A tight-knit Westland community is in mourning following the tragic death of 4-year-old Reuben Nolan yesterday.

Tributes have flow in for Nolan who was tragically found dead in an effluent pond at his family's farm after a frantic search effort.

Westland mayor Bruce Smith said the township of Harihari was in absolute shock and the death was a "huge tragedy" for the close-knit community of 350 people.

"The Nolan family and the Thompson family are very well known.

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"When someone so young is taken like this it just impacts all of the parents and grandparents. It's a terrible thing," Smith said.

There was a big search effort for Reuben after his mother had posted a request for help after he had been missing for three hours.

Some people had driven from hours away to lend a hand.

"People came from absolutely everywhere, they came from Haast, from everywhere.

"Unfortunately, it was not a good result."

He planned to visit the family in the coming days to offer his support, he said.

Tributes and offers of support have flown in from friends of the family and complete strangers.

Nick Rouse offered his support to the family, saying "nothing I can say will make it better ... I cannot imagine a greater pain than the pain of losing a child".

"My love is strong and I'm sending it to you and your family.

"If you see me around Harihari say hi, I'll hug it out with you," he posted to Facebook.

Tasha Kimber offered her support as a fellow mother to a young child.

"No words may ease the terrible pain you must be going through, as another mum my heart breaks for you and cannot even comprehend what you must be feeling. Just know we are thinking of you and your family and sending you love and strength," Kimber said.

While Laura Powell posted "There are no words. But my heart is breaking for you and your family, sending you love and strength for the coming days. My thoughts are with you."

Nolan was reported missing from the farm in Harihari, Westland, shortly before 1.30pm on Sunday.

Police officers, local volunteers, family and friends, launched a search operation shortly after.

Two and a half hours later police issued a statement saying his body had been found in an effluent pond.

"Police extend their condolences to Reuben's family for their tragic loss," the statement read.

Reuben's death would be referred to the Coroner.

His family was being assisted by Victim Support.

Dairy NZ on their website recommends fences, escape ladders, anchor points and signage for effluent ponds.

"All ponds should be fenced off with a netting fence to prevent stock and children from accidentally falling into the pond.

"Locked gates are essential and electric fences can also be used."

There is no legal requirement to enforce such measures.