Families relieved as six bodies recovered from Whakaari/White Island

For Whakatane, this has been a week of pain, sorrow and grief, but on Friday morning, local iwi were determined to support the Whakaari/White Island families.

Many of them headed out onto the water to pray and bless White Island. And onshore, there were more prayers and waiata as a community grieved together.

It started early for families who were up at 4:30am. They were taken out to sea to pray and bless the island.

Police deputy commissioner Mike Clement said being close to the island and their whanau was "really important" to everybody.

"I think that was the absolute right thing to do and I'm glad we were able to do it."

Many who were on board were foreign families, and the majority of the dead are from Australia.

As families returned to shore, the emotions were overwhelming and many were seen crying and on their knees.

Six bodies have been recovered, and two remain on the island.

Paul Quinn from White Island Tours said the "critical" part for families is that they were involved in the process of recovering bodies.

Officials vow the operation to find the two people still missing will continue.