Sixteen people stranded on a bird sanctuary in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf are being ferried off by water taxi this morning.

A spokeswoman for Kawau Cruises said a craft was planning to make two trips to Tiritiri Matangi Island this morning to shuttle the group, including children, who were forced to spend an unexpected extra night on the island.

The gulf is too rough for the ferry service to reach the island, and sailings to Tiritiri Matangi have been cancelled today.

But the group, desperate to get off the island, were now resorting to the smaller water taxi to get back to Auckland.

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The 15 visitors were dropped off at the island on Wednesday. They and one Department of Conservation staffer have been stranded there since then.

The Kawau Cruises spokeswoman said it would take two journeys to get everyone off the island.

Yesterday wind gusts of up to 81km/h were recorded at the Tiritiri Matangi lighthouse.

All visitors remained at the Department of Conservation bunkhouse.