Three people who were feared to have been washed out to sea at Bethells Beach have made it back to shore.

A police spokeswoman said a person approached surf lifeguards at the beach and told them they had seen three males in trouble in the surf.

The incident occurred after surf patrols had finished for the day.

A major search and rescue operation was launched involving lifeguards, police and the Coastguard.

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A Surf Life Saving NZ spokesman said all three had managed to managed to make it back to shore by themselves.

They were not thought to have been injured.