The search for a missing diver near the Hen and Chicken Islands, in Northland, is now a recovery effort.

Police dive crews are due to head out again this morning to try and find a 36-year-old man who was diving with a friend on Sunday.

The alarm was raised just before 7.30pm that night by his companion, via a boat radio, after he failed to surface.

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Coastguard northern region duty officer, Nico Doodeman, said on the night of the incident, a rescue helicopter and two Coastguard vessels were called out.

They scoured the area until the search was stood down about midnight, he said.

Sergeant Shane Turner, Whāngārei Search and Rescue Co-ordinator, said they had been utilising helicopters and the Coast Guard in the search since the man was reported missing.

"We are supporting the man's family at this difficult time," he said.

The search was resumed at first light yesterday and involved a search from the air as well as on the water.

"But there's been no sign of him," Doodeman said.

All on-water searches have been suspended now, he said.

A Police Dive Squad is due to be sent out as soon as the weather allows, police said.

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