Convicted child sex offender Daniel Livingstone may have altered his appearance to avoid identification, police warn.
Patrols around local schools have been stepped up and members of the community are asked to remain vigilant as the hunt continues.
Livingstone, who is subject to an extended supervision order, cut off an ankle monitoring bracelet and fled from his home in Wellington's Upper Hutt yesterday.
Police were called to his address by Corrections staff when the tamper alarm on his bracelet was activated around 3:50am yesterday.
A note was found at the property however, police say they are unclear of its meaning.
However police appear to be dismissing reports they gave Livingstone a "head start".
"Officers visited the property where Mr Livingstone was living on two separate occasions at the request of Corrections in the early hours of Thursday morning," Wellington District Commander Sam Hoyle says.
"In these circumstances, there are no specific powers of entry without warrant for a constable to forcibly enter premises when they believe an offender is not there.
"On the third visit, police took the step of forcing entry to the property given the seriousness of the situation."
Mr Hoyle says the search for Livingstone had already been underway for several hours by that time.
"He was actively sought as an absconder from the moment that door knocking at his property failed to gain a response."
Area patrols, background enquiries and address checks for a known associate have all been carried out.
Livingstone, described as 175cm tall, Maori and of medium build, was convicted in 2006 for the abduction and rape of a 10-year-old girl in Whangarei.
Police warn he is considered high risk and should not be approached.
Sightings of Livingstone should be reported immediately on 111.