A seven-year-old boy has been suffocated after a hole he was digging at a beach in New Zealand's north collapsed on top of him.

According to Fairfax NZ News, the boy stuck his head in the hole to have a look before the sand collapsed around him, pinning him inside and smothering him at Frogtown Beach, near Pataua South.

St John Ambulance spokesman Tony Devanney said members of the public tried to resuscitate him while St paramedics arrived by helicopter. '

"Sadly and horribly, it was unsuccessful," Mr Devanney said.

A local resident said they had seen the emergency services respond, but the wider community had not been informed of the circumstances.