5 May 2021

Missing 3-year-old Axle has been found alive near Tolaga Bay

5:41 pm on 5 May 2021

A 3-year-old boy who went missing from his rural property on the East Cape yesterday afternoon has been found alive.

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Photo: NZ Police

Police confirmed the boy named Axle was found about 10.45am today and has been reunited with his family.

Axle was found "about 3.5km from the house", police constable Richard Reeves told RNZ.

Local broadcaster Uawa Live reports that more than 100 search and rescue volunteers cheered as the crew that found him made their way up the driveway.

RNZ understands the boy and his family are new to the community, which has 800 residents.

Tolaga Bay Civil Defence manager Greg Shelton estimates 200 to 300 people were out overnight - searching the bush and beach, supplying food and water and giving emotional support.

He said everyone was overjoyed with this morning's outcome.

"It's a huge sense of relief in our community, it's a bright sunny day up here, we're just really now enjoying the moment."

Shelton said it was a long night.

"You don't really get a lot of sleep, my phone went virtually all night, although I wasn't really directly involved, we were sort of organised for a follow-up today when exhaustion set in from the original team."

Shelton said many of the searchers had families, even if their children were now older.

"We can imagine when our boys were three or four or five years old, what that family would have been going through, the unknown, that night that Axel spent out in the bush."

A farmer who attended today's early morning briefing told RNZ the location that was being searched was in a forested area that has a river running through it.

The area is about 7km inland from the coast.

Police, Land Search and Rescue and helicopter staff were also involved in the search today.

The search yesterday included police dogs and a helicopter, and a small team continued to search in the darkness until 11pm.

A Facebook post with the boy wrapped in his mother's arms gathered thousands of relieved messages from around the country within minutes.

Police have extended their thanks to everyone who offered their assistance in searching for Axle.

* The spelling of Axle's name has been changed in RNZ's coverage of this story after consulting with his family