A chopper pilot is hailing a "hero" who rescued two fishermen stuck on a rock off Auckland's coastline tonight.

The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was on a training flight to Thames when it got a call from the NZ Police Maritime Unit, crew member David Walley said.

Two men were stuck in the dark on a rock 50m off shore at Waihihi, south of Orere Pt.

Thankfully they were easy to spot thanks to a light from their mobile phone. Pilot Rob Arrowsmith hovered alongside them to make sure they were ok. The tide had come in over the rock and was up to the men's knees, and getting higher.

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The chopper doesn't winch people "unless we absolutely have to" so they landed on the beach and called Coastguard Maraetai to help with the rescue.

Then Walley spotted a third person on the rock through his night vision goggles.

A local man had been asleep on his couch and woke to the sound of the chopper. He spotted the fishermen through his telescope and decided to wade out into the chest-high waves and guide the pair back to shore.

Walley said the man - who wants to stay anonymous - is "a real hero", but the man was modest about the incident.

"I just knew the area so I sussed it out," he said.

He's never seen anyone stuck on that rock before. "It's just one of those bad luck things."

The pair told him they had been facing out toward the sunset and did not realise darkness was falling quite so fast.

St John Ambulance was called but not needed. "They were just very wet and cold. The locals were great, they gave them warm clothes and all was well," Walley said.

The two fishermen, who he guessed were in their early 30s, were "just relieved and tired and...a bit sheepish. They were all offering to make donations to the Westpac Helicopter."