Regional | Aotea

One missing, boats torn from moorings on Aotea, Great Barrier Island

A barge has ripped from its mooring and landed on the beach at Puriri Bay on Aotea, Great Barrier Island. Photo / Nikki Watts via Facebook /

One person is being searched for near Aotea, Great Barrier Island after a boat made a distress call at 2:15am.

The Police Maritime Unit, with assistance from Eagle [helicopter], attempted to approach the boat throughout the morning. "However, conditions have been challenging, and, at this stage, no one has been located," police said in a statement at midday.

Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter were tasked to assist with the search of the missing vessel.

"The police Eagle helicopter located the vessel approximately 15 miles southeast of the Hen and Chicken Islands," staff said.

"[With] no signs of any persons on board and weather conditions too dangerous to winch, crew returned to base."

Cyclone Gabrielle is tracking towards Aotea, Great Barrier Island, with the eye of the storm now 150 km north of the northernmost tip of the island.

There are six-metre swells surrounding the motu, with locals saying four vessels have already broken their moorings, including a barge, which has landed on the beach in Puriri Bay.

Above: Live weather tracking as Cyclone Gabrielle crosses Aotearoa. Source /

Local board chair Izzy Fordham told RNZ this morning the weather on the island was already "rough and raw", with big waves, rain, wind and very low visibility.

"Some of the gusts are quite strong," she said.

"We had a little bit of surface flooding yesterday, and of course the seas are rough and rugged, so that's pushing the water back up our creeks and estuaries."

Waiting for the cyclone to hit was the worst part, she said.

"It's quite anxious when you're sitting around just waiting, waiting ... we're just waiting to see now what Gabrielle will unleash."

All flights and ferry services to the island have been halted since yesterday as winds rose and the associated sea state deteriorated.

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