Authorities are urging people to be careful when it comes to setting off distress flares after one mistakenly let off sparked a full emergency response last night.

A Coastguard rescue vessel, local police, a police Eagle helicopter and the NZ Defence Force were all called on after a distress flare was seen in the sky just off the Whangaparāoa Peninsula just before 11pm.

Coastguard duty officer Nico Doodeman said they received multiple calls from the public -including one from a helicopter in the area of Te Haruhi Bay, or Shakespeare Regional Park and beach.

A police Eagle helicopter was immediately sent to the scene, as were local police officers on the ground.


'I owe them my soul' - NZ Coastguard starts 2019 annual appeal to raise $20 million
Coastguard issues advice after three-hour search for man found onshore
Premium - Allan Turia is Coastguard's Rescue Vessel Volunteer of the Year
Homunga Bay rescue: Coastguard tows boat to safety amid massive chop

A Coastguard rescue vessel was tasked and the NZDF was preparing to help in the search also when a member of the public called police to say he had set the flare off by accident.

"It was foolish to let off a distress flare, but we're thankful the member of the public called police, as it could've cost a lot."

Doodeman said had the phone call not come through, they would have potentially spent hours out on the water and around the area searching for a vessel that was not in trouble.

Fire's speed wake-up call
Lanterns mistaken for distress flares
'It got bigger and bigger': Suspected meteor spotted over lower North Island
Kiwis heard 'screaming' as explosion sparks fire at Rangihoua Bay's Marsden Cross historic site in Bay of Islands

It was later found out that the flare had been set off on land - near Shakespeare Beach - where a number of people were gathered at the time, he said.

As a result of the incident, the Coastguard is set to release a reminder and call for people to be extra careful when handling distress flares.