Security in the small Bay of Plenty town of Little Waihī had been beefed up in the months before a 2-year-old girl died in suspicious circumstances.

The toddler's body was found in a tidal flat last Thursday, with police investigating and labelling her death suspicious.

They had initially been called to the scene at 10.40am because of "reports of a public disorder".

Residents of the close-knit community said a man had been running naked in the area.


A family friend, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Herald police were now speaking to a man as part of their investigation.

It is understood no charges had been laid and police are still calling on anyone with information to get in touch.

The Te Arawa Lakes Trust, which owns the land in Little Waihī, said it was "saddened by the tragic events".

"The trust has had some serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of those at the centre of this situation – and surrounding residents in Little Waihi – for some time," a trust spokesperson said.

"As a result of these concerns, the trust increased security in the village in an effort to de-escalate some of the incidents surrounding those concerns."

Residents in the village had been notifying police and other authorities about concerns they had for at least two months before the young girl died last Thursday.

"We are all devastated that, this time, the extensive efforts of so many have not been enough to prevent this death," the trust spokesperson said.

A statement by the Te Arawa Residents Group said Little Waihi's residents were "extremely sad and upset".


"We are a tight-knit community and we work closely together to try to keep our people safe," the statement said.

"We are supporting each other – and especially looking out for some of our older residents – at this time, and will continue to do so in the coming days, weeks and months."

The trust and resident's group said they were unable to comment further for privacy and legal reasons.

Earlier, a Little Waihī resident, who didn't wish to be named, said his wife had arrived home last Thursday morning to find a heavy police presence in the coastal town.

She saw a distressed female police officer before being told to go inside her home and stay there until police had the situation under control.

"There's been cars coming and going at all different times and the house has been shut up during the day with all curtains closed," he said.


Herald reporters visited the scene yesterday to find a small token of balloons and candles was placed on a bank overlooking the estuary where the young girl had been found.

A rahui had been placed over the area, according to Ngati Whakaue ki Tai on Facebook.

A property under investigation in connection to the death was cordoned off as police officers continued their work inside.

A man outside the house who identified himself as a member of a family connected to the tragedy said he was struggling to comprehend the incident.

"I'm just traumatised by what has happened."

The property is located at the end of Tio Place, a small point with tranquil water lapping either side.


A local woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the death had deeply shaken the community.

"The impact is hard. I personally feel like my peace of mind has gone. This is a lovely little village and now that has been taken away from us," she said. "The estuary will never be the same."