The two-year-old whose body was found in the Rangitaiki River in Bay of Plenty last night has been described as a well-loved, vibrant little girl.
A 32-year-old man charged with the murder of Arnica Savage appeared in Whakatāne District Court earlier today.
A relative of the girl said she and the tight-knight community of Te Mahoe were incredibly angry by what had happened.
The girl had lived in the small town with her grandmother, who alerted other locals to her disappearance.
Whakatāne police were called following reports of a person going into Lake Matahina with a young child about 6pm last night.
The adult was found unharmed but the girl's body was not found until five hours later after an extensive search.
Her body was found in Rangitaiki River about 11pm.
Police launched a homicide inquiry earlier today.
Police said he was known to the victim, but would not comment on the relationship between them.
A post mortem will be carried out tomorrow.
Te Mahoe community spokesperson Caroline Abraham said the family of the two-year-old girl was trying to cope with her death.
"Our hearts are strongly with the whanau, this is a time for joining with them, for supporting them and helping them anyway we can," Ms Abraham said.
Whakatāne District Mayor Tony Bonne said he only heard about the news this morning.
"The Whakatāne District's a close knit community, it's quite a large area but we're all fairly close knit so I know people will be rallying around the people who are [involved]," he said.