Two boaties are recovering in hospital after a harrowing night where another of their group died when their boat capsized at the Manukau Heads last night.

Authorities say the two survivors managed to swim to shore before being rescued after an initial report was made to police just after 9pm.

It is not yet known whether the person who died had made it to shore beforehand, but it took some time for rescuers to get to the group because of lack of access to the area.

A Coastguard spokesman said: "Once we figured out what the position was, we told the Police we weren't able to get a [rescue boat] there.

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"Just based on the initial information we had - which puts it right on South Head. From what I understand, the survivors were under the cliffs."

He said they had not received a mayday call from the vessel itself and that it is understood a passerby - possibly on another boat - alerted police.

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It was not clear whether the group had been trying to cross the notorious Manukau Bar where many other boaties have tragically lost their lives, or come close, over the years.

Police said last night initial indications suggested the boat had overturned.

"Sadly, one person died at the scene. Two others were transported to Middlemore Hospital with minor injuries," a statement said.

Officers are now working to establish the circumstances of the incident and are expected to interview the two survivors at some point.

MISSING KAYAKER NAMED:

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Police have named a kayaker who has been missing since Saturday.

Louis Solofua, 59, has been identified as the missing man who had been out checking fishing nets on Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora in Canterbury.

He was reported overdue about 12pm that day, as he had been expected back two hours earlier. His kayak was found at 2.30pm the same day.

Police and the Canterbury Coastguard will carry out an aerial search of the lake today.