Search resumes for 4yo boy missing near Gisborne

Axel has been missing since Tuesday afternoon.
Axel has been missing since Tuesday afternoon. Photo credit: New Zealand police

Emergency services are resuming their search for a four-year-old boy who has been missing for roughly 16 hours after he walked off from his rural Mangatuna home.

The four-year-old, named Axel, is believed to have wandered away from his home near the small East Coast town of Tolaga Bay, located about 45 kilometres northeast of Gisborne, on Tuesday afternoon.

He was reported missing to police at 3pm. 

Police and volunteers from the community continued their search for the child late into the night and resumed their efforts at dawn. 

Between 40 and 50 volunteers, along with Land Search and Rescue staff and air support, will be searching the property on Wednesday morning.  

Axel was last seen wearing a blue shirt with a palm tree design and blue gumboots printed with sharks.

Speaking to Newshub on Wednesday morning, a close friend of the family, Shinae Twist, said Axel's mother is "devastated".

"His mum's devastated, she's heartbroken. She's beside herself with worry. Her baby is out there somewhere - it was cold last night, it was freezing," she said.

Twist says the support of the Tolaga Bay community has been "incredible" as locals rally together to find the missing four-year-old.

"Last night, Tolaga Bay residents left their outside lights on and they have put a teddy bear and a blanket on their front doorstep. I think that's just amazing. Axel's family are really grateful for each and every single one of those volunteers out there that aren't at work today or have postponed their own commitments to help find this little boy."

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz told Newshub the Gisborne community is standing in solidarity with Axel's family.

"The Gisborne community is rallying behind Tolaga Bay to support them in this search," Stoltz said.

"The community has been out in force trying to find Axel and we pray for his safe return today."

In an update at aound 8:30am, social media-based local news source Uawa Live said ground crews, drones, a rescue helicopter and specialist search terms were continuing efforts to locate Axel.

A miniature white, fluffy dog, which the boy was with when he was reported missing, was found safe on Tuesday evening. A man claiming to be the dog's owner has since come forward in a community Facebook group, claiming the dog returned to its home at around 4pm.

"It's weird for [the dog] to take off like that, so he would have been following Axel," the man said.

"I have taken my dog back in the direction he came from to see if he would lead me anywhere in particular, but there was just too many people around and he was too excited to be of any use."

In a statement, a spokesperson reiterated that police urgently want to hear from anyone who might have seen Axel or has any information that may assist authorities. 

"If you have seen Axel, or have any information which may assist, please phone Police on 111 and quote event number P046388324," the spokesperson said.