A specialist police dive squad is searching the Northland coast for dive gear following the death of a 57-year-old scuba diver.
Garry William Pitman of Whangarei, and grandfather of six, died shortly after surfacing without his gear on Tuesday.
He was diving in the Waikuku Beach area about midday when the alarm was raised by his diving buddies.
Whangarei police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said Mr Pitman had been diving in about 10m of water, at Waikuku Beach, north of Paua.
"He surfaced and they brought him on the boat but he died at the scene."
There were four in the dive party, made up of three divers and the skipper of the boat.
It wasn't known what had gone wrong, but the dead man's companions had retrieved his body and taken him to Paua, where they had launched from.
It was not yet known if the other divers had been in the water or in the boat at the time the man surfaced.
A post-mortem examination was to be done in Auckland yesterday.
The police dive squad from Wellington flew North and were searching the water for the man's dive gear in the hope it would provide key information.
Houhora residents had volunteered a boat for the dive squad to use and they left about 11.30am. It's estimated it would take them three hours boating to reach the dive spot yesterday.
Meanwhile, it was a busy day for Coastguard volunteers as they rescued six boaties in two separate incidents in Whangarei on Tuesday.
Coastguard northern region received the first call for help about midday from three people on board a private vessel that broke down just off Ruakaka.
The vessel had a flat battery and Coastguard volunteers were attending to that callout when they received another mayday call off Waipu Cove, south of Whangarei, about 1pm.
Coastguard northern region operations manager Ray Burge said volunteers left a jumpstarter pack with the three on board at Ruakaka before rushing off to the second callout within 10 minutes of the call for help coming through.
The Ruakaka boaties safely made their way to shore, he said.
Another three people were left stranded at Waipu Cove after a fire started in the engine of their 34ft launch.
The blaze had been contained by the time Coastguard volunteers arrived, although it was still smouldering.
Mr Burge said the volunteers assessed the situation before towing the launch to Marsden Cove Marina where it was checked by firefighters.
"It was a busy day for the volunteers but they did a fantastic job," Mr Burge said.
The New Zealand Underwater Association called for safer diving practices following Mr Pitman's death.
Divers needed to ensure that safe diving practices were employed at all times, board member for the New Zealand Underwater Association Matthew Nutter said.
"New Zealand Underwater is disappointed to see the occurrence of incidents involving divers in the last few days."
Mr Nutter said this was the time of the year when divers got their gear out for the first time and went diving.
"New Zealand Underwater asks all divers to think about what they are going to do on their dive, not just from when they go down, but to plan all aspects of their dive, including how they will get to their dive site, and back safety."
He said they recommended divers, and those who accompanied them on boat, carry two forms of communication and have safety and emergency equipment.
The New Zealand Underwater Association would assist police and the coroner with their investigations, Mr Nutter said.He said he hoped this would help increase training and awareness for participants in underwater activities.
- additional reporting APNZ