Searchers have recovered five bodies from the Kaipara Harbour, northwest of Auckland, after a fishing boat got into trouble today.
Three people are still missing. Three were rescued and were in hospital, police said.
Eleven people were onboard the vessel when it was reported overdue off South Head this afternoon.
It is understood the boat could not cross the bar into the harbour.
An air search for the missing trio has stopped for the night, but would resume at 7am tomorrow, weather permitting, police said.
Massive air search
Emergency services were called about 3.30pm.
Four aircraft - three helicopters and a plane - searched for people in the water. Lifeguards from the Muriwai Volunteer Surf Lifeguard Service helped.
Inspector Duncan Hall said a shoreline search around South Head and Te Oneone Rangatira Beach would continue for a few more hours tonight.
"Conditions are not suitable for an air search to continue tonight due to a significant sea swell. Visibility is poor, which would put rescue aircraft and their crews at risk," he said.
"Inquiries are being made into what happened to the vessel and how people ended up in the water."
Inspector Hall could not confirm who was on board, but said anyone with concerns about the welfare of relatives in relation to the incident should go to the Helensville Police Station or call 111.
Boaties were asked to avoid the area during search efforts.
Vessel was the Francie - mariner
A mariner who knows the area well said the vessel was the Francie, a 12-metre launch that can carry up to 20 passengers and two crew.
In 2012, the Francie rescued a 12-metre ketch.
The Cheval de Mer was adrift with a broken engine and blown-out sails for four days after activating an emergency beacon 30 nautical miles north-west of Pouto, on the north side of the Kaipara Harbour.
Francie skipper Rod Bridge towed the yacht from disaster, the Kaipara Lifestyler reported at the time.
Wind picked up
MetService said as of 5pm, winds were gusting up to 50 kilometres an hour in the harbour.
Meteorologist Tom Adams said the winds could strengthen this evening and rain was expected.
There was a one-metre swell near the harbour mouth, he said.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into the incident.
It would send two investigators to the scene, who were expected to arrive in the morning.