A French tourist narrowly avoided a 50 metre cliff plunge by grabbing on to a tree at Omanawa Falls yesterday.

The 32-year-old fell over a cliff at the waterfall, near Tauranga, but grabbed onto a tree branch 10m from the top, avoiding falling another 40m to rocks below.

A St John paramedic was winched down from the Tauranga-based Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter to secure the man into a harness.

The man was winched to safety, and was uninjured.

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In January last year, a 37-year-old Tauranga man and his 12-year old son fell 100m off a walking track at the falls.

The father received serious back and shoulder injuries in the fall and his son received serious head injuries.