A major search is under way for a person missing at Waikato’s notorious Papanui Point after reports they fell into the water from rocks more than 24 hours ago.
A police spokesperson said they were alerted that a person had fallen from the rocks shortly before 1.40pm yesterday.
“The search is ongoing, with Coastguard, Surf Lifesaving assisting police search teams and police drone team,” they said.
Water Safety NZ (WSNZ) statistics show 16 people have drowned at Papanui Point and eight others on nearby beaches since 1980. Of those drownings, 15 were men rock fishing from the point.
Yesterday police said weather conditions were “incredibly challenging”, but the search would continue while there was sufficient daylight available.
In an update tonight, police confirmed there was no update and the person was still outstanding.
It comes after the Department of Conservation (DoC), the Waikato District Council and WSNZ urged people not to go fishing at Papanui Point less than six weeks earlier.
“Worryingly for land managers DoC and Waikato District Council, the dangerous site continues to attract members of the fishing community – despite it being a location known to claim lives,” the statement read.
DoC’s Waikato operations manager Jane Wheeler said there were a number of risks at the site and DoC had consistently urged people not to go fishing at the point for their own safety.
“There is no official DoC track to the point and we want to emphasise that for starters – this is not part of our track network. Secondly, the rocks themselves are slippery, and reaching them is fraught with risk.
“The sea can change rapidly and dramatically and that increases the risk and the danger, with fishers being washed into the sea,” said Wheeler.
The statement said rescues of fishers washed from the rocks had proven difficult for emergency services and there had been incidents in which it had taken several days to recover bodies.
An alert for the missing man came shortly after two stricken fishermen were plucked from rocks in a dramatic helicopter rescue just up the coast in Port Waikato yesterday afternoon.
Crew from the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter were called out about 12.30pm to assist with the search and rescue of two fishermen, believed to be in their 50s, who were trapped on a rock and close to being swept away.
The rescue helicopter hovered above the men and winched them up to the aircraft.
Photos of the rescue show churning white water and large waves washing over the rocks while the men clung on for their lives.
The fishermen were not badly hurt and did not need to be taken to hospital. The crew returned to base.
Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.