The search for a man who is missing in the water at the popular Whangārei Falls has been suspended for the night.

The swimmer has not been located and the search will resume in the morning with the Police Dive Squad.

Whangerei Falls will be closed until the search operation is complete.

Scene guards will be in place overnight.

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Emergency services were alerted about 4.50pm after the man was seen looking distressed in the water.

In a statement, police said the man went under water while swimming and failed to surface.

Police, St John and firefighters were called to the scene and were taping off a viewing platform and getting people out of the water in a swimming hole at the top of the falls.

It appeared the man was last seen at the base of the waterfall.