Beach dig underway relating to Joseph Ahuriri who vanished during Cyclone Gabrielle

6:47 pm on 15 April 2024
Joseph Ahuriri, 40, went missing during Cyclone Gabrielle, after leaving home in Gisborne on 13 February heading to Napier.

Gisborne man Joseph Ahuriri was last seen on 14 February last year. Photo: Supplied via NZ Police

Police are searching a section of beach north of Napier in relation to the disappearance of Gisborne man Joseph Ahuriri during Cyclone Gabrielle.

Ahuriri was last seen with his white Toyota Hilux at the Waitomo petrol station in Bay View, just north of Napier, early on 14 February last year.

Police have been investigating ever since, and began searching near the Esk River mouth on Monday morning.

There was a cordon in place near the river mouth, and excavators could be seen digging up the beach, 1News reported.

"Police are making enquiries in the Esk River area as part of an ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Joseph Ahuriri," police said in a statement.

"Search activity will continue in the area tomorrow."

Late last year, police and GNS Science searched the Eskdale area with a magnometer drone system - which can identify large metallic objects buried underground.

GNS was reviewing the results, and police had been expecting those results by mid-March.

Ahuriri, a father of eight, had been trying to head back to Gisborne from Napier, but his family previously said they feared his ute was washed away by the floodwaters.

It was also feared Ahuriri, who had links to the Gisborne-based chapter of Black Power NZ, had been targeted due to his gang links.

In 2023, police searched Whakatu, Clive, Esk Valley, the Napier-Taupō road, State Highway 5 and State Highway 2 for the missing 40-year-old.

Police divers and personnel from the Navy's dive and hydrographic unit, HMNZS Matataua, also searched the coastline near Esk River.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs