Kaumatua have banned people from using Tikitapu (Blue Lake) for the first time as police search the area for a missing Rotorua woman.
Te Arawa kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea told The Daily Post local Maori had placed a rahui on the lake following the disappearance of the woman this week.
The 32-year-old Rotorua woman was reported missing on Monday and police and search and rescue crews, plus the Rotorua Coastguard, have been searching the lake and surrounding bush since.
Mr Rangiheuea said Environment Bay of Plenty had agreed to closing the lake. He said the regional council was also putting up signs advising people of the closure.
"We have placed the rahui on the lake as a sign of respect for the family," he said. "It is a tough time for them while they are looking for their lost loved one."
Mr Rangiheuea said the rahui would be in place until the body was found or for the next 14 days.
"We have done this as a cultural thing," he said.
Bans had been put in place on other lakes in the area - but Mr Rangiheuea said a ban had not been placed on Tikitapu before.
"We did one a few years ago when a tourist went missing near Tarawera."
"I have spoken to people who frequently use the lake and they have agreed to the ban," he said.
While at Tikitapu, Mr Rangiheuea spoke to family members of the missing woman. "I spoke to the grandfather. He is obviously extremely upset but they are pleased with the intentions of our people."
The search for the missing woman entered its fourth day today.
Detective Sergeant John Wilson of the Rotorua CIB, who is in charge of the search, said the team from the Wellington-based National Dive Squad searched until dark on Tuesday while search and rescue volunteers continued searching until about midnight on Tuesday.
The teams continued their search from 7.30am yesterday.
The woman was reported missing on Monday. Her named has not been released.
Mr Wilson said the search centred around "hotspots" where the woman was most likely to be. Her car, a silver Toyota Echo, was found near the lake by a family member on Monday.
There was still a large area of the lake which needed to be searched and divers could be there for days.
"At the moment, we are focused on the spots with the highest probability of where she could be," Mr Wilson said.
"Respective to the lake, we have only covered a small area."
Environment Bay of Plenty communications adviser Amanda Weatherley said the harbour master placed five signs around the lake yesterday.
"There is a sign on the boat ramp, one near the boat ramp, two in the car park and one at the lookout."
Ms Weatherley said the lake would be closed to unauthorised vessels or people until further notice.