The Brisbane mother and daughter killed in the Whakaari/White Island tragedy were only on the volcanic island after an earlier tour was cancelled.

Julie Richards, 47, and her 20-year-old daughter are among those who lost their lives when the volcano off the coast of Whakatane erupted on December 9.

Their bodies were amongst the first identified by New Zealand authorities.

The Brisbane pair were honoured at a candlelight vigil last Sunday, with Julie's sister-in-law Jen Ebron revealing that they were supposed to actually tour White Island two years ago.

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But that tour was cancelled, leading the mother and daughter to ultimately reschedule to visit on the day tragedy struck.

Ebron told mourners that the Richards had been "jumping out of their skin" with excitement to eventually be able to visit White Island.

"They were laughing and carrying on about racing each other to the top and to see who could throw the biggest stone into the volcano," the Brisbane Times reported.

"The only blessing to come out of this was that they were together."

An aerial photo of Whakaari / White Island after the December 9 eruption. Bay of Plenty Times photograph / George Novak
An aerial photo of Whakaari / White Island after the December 9 eruption. Bay of Plenty Times photograph / George Novak

Amid tributes to the pair, family and friends spoke of their absolute disbelief that people died at the popular tourist spot.

They had been travelling on cruise ship Ovation of the Seas before taking the trip out to White Island.

Family friend John Mickel told the gathering: "How do you book a holiday to New Zealand and have this happen? There is a sense of the enormity of how troubling that is and at a whole level.

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"There has been this outpouring of grief and questioning about why you would be allowed to go on an island like that.

"These are questions that will need to be answered in the fullness of time."

Mourners described Julie and Jessica as "amazing, loving people who lived their lives to the fullest".

Brisbane City Council councillor for the Calamvale ward, Angela Owen, said the deaths of the popular pair had "rocked" locals.

Julie Richards and daughter Jessica Richards have been lovingly remembered in a candlelit vigil across the Tasman. Photo / Supplied
Julie Richards and daughter Jessica Richards have been lovingly remembered in a candlelit vigil across the Tasman. Photo / Supplied

"There are a lot of Jessica's school friends here, university friends, her AFL teammates but also many people in the community who knew Julie," the Brisbane Times quoted Owen as saying at the service.

"They were very well known, very well liked and are being remembered as well-loved community members.

"Jessica is well known for her wonderful trumpet playing, her AFL career but also as just really genuine beautiful people."

Jessica had been a promising Australian Rules player. Her mother was hugely supportive of her daughter's sporting ambitions and also well known in the local Australian Rules community.

Shortly after the pair's death had been confirmed, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was among those to pay tribute.

New Zealand Defence Force staff walking on Whakaari / White Island during last week's body recovery mission. Supplied photo / New Zealand Police
New Zealand Defence Force staff walking on Whakaari / White Island during last week's body recovery mission. Supplied photo / New Zealand Police

She wrote in a social media post: "I know how much Julie and Jessica are loved and how terribly devastating their loss is.

"I offer my profound condolences to everyone going through what this family is going through. I also offer my admiration to rescuers and the Brisbane medical teams comforting the injured."

On Wednesday, police confirmed they would hand over the search for the bodies of the last two people missing after the eruption – tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, and Australian tourist Winona Langford, 17 – to local experts.

But they insisted they had not "given up" finding their remains.

The two remaining bodies missing since the White Island eruption are likely to have been washed out to sea, police said.

Deputy Commissioner John Tims said there was no guarantee the bodies of those missing would be found.

New Zealand Defence Force during the search for bodies on Whakaari / White Island last week. Supplied Photo / New Zealand Police
New Zealand Defence Force during the search for bodies on Whakaari / White Island last week. Supplied Photo / New Zealand Police

It was the considered view of experts that their bodies were washed out to sea after a "significant weather event" the night of the island's explosion, Tims said.

"Police recognise the immense pain this must cause their families.

"We have always had an expectation of ourselves and others that all bodies would be recovered so it's both disappointing and frustrating to be in this position."

As the chances of finding the bodies of Langford and Marshall-Inman diminishes, the recovery operation will also change.

The recovery operation will now be local-led, headed by District Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor, Tims said.

Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said yesterday afternoon the two bodies had been near a stream that ran off the island. There was a significant weather event on the night the volcano erupted and police believe the bodies have not been on the island since December 10.

A 1.5m wave of water and sediment is believed to have come down the stream on Whakaari and washed the two bodies away, police say.

The stream was searched three times, and aerial imagery also confirmed the two bodies were no longer there.

It is Clement's "strong view" that the bodies of Langford and Marshall-Inman were washed out to sea.

"What we know is on the 11th of December there was a body of a male off the coast in the bay adjacent to the jetty and we believe that person to be Hayden Inman" - although there was not a visual identification.

Clement has this afternoon been with Marshall-Inman's extended family, walking them through the police belief that his body is in the sea, and they have accepted that view.

On the day Marshall-Inman's body was seen in the water, the Deodar police boat could not get close enough to recover the body.

"Despite our best efforts, we weren't able to get [the body] before it went down again," Clement said. "They got very close to the body . . . within metres."

The recovery team were "deeply disappointed" they had not been able to recover him for his family, Clement said.