After nearly four years, the life-saving actions of two "humble" men were finally recognised yesterday afternoon.

In front of family, police representatives, and Hastings District Councillors, Michael Karauria and David Goodman were presented with certificates of merit for their bravery on August 19, 2012 when they saved a man and his four-year-old daughter from drowning at Haumoana.

Presenting the certificates on behalf of the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand, Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said the men should be incredibly proud of their actions.

"You seem very humble individuals and I'm sure you are, but on that day you were hero's," he said, "it's our pleasure on behalf of this community and in front of your family to recognise the selfless acts, your lack of fear for your own life, in doing the right thing."


While Mr Karauria said he was grateful to receive the certificate yesterday, he thought anyone would have done the same in his situation.

"I just saw the little girl tip out, and my emotions kicked in, my instincts kicked in," he said.

Reading a citation from the Society, Mr Yule said on that day a kayak had overturned at the mouth of Haumoana's Tukituki River, and a man and his daughter were being washed out to sea toward a small shingle bar, known locally as an Island, 70m off the shoreline. The tide was coming in and the island would soon be underwater.

Coastgaurd, Search and Rescue, and the rescue helicopter were on standby, but Mr Karauria and Mr Goodman took action independently.

A strong swimmer himself, Mr Kararuia had swum to the island and assisted in pulling the two up onto the shingle to safety. The citation said it had been a dangerous swim during which Mr Karauria had fears the tide was taking him away from the bar and that he would not make it.

Mr Goodman had been whitebaiting, and said when he saw the kayak overturn he realised something had to be done immediately.

After seeing the pair were "relatively safe" on the island Mr Goodman went to them on a paddleboard, but with the tide coming in was preparing himself for the worst.

The four-year-old had been dragged under the water a number of times before reaching the island.

"I was prepared to go and find her and resuscitate her on the paddleboard," he said, "there was always the risk she could re-drown."

After he had brought her back to shore, Mr Goodman said she was shaking and collapsed in the arms of Mr Karauria's wife, before emergency services reached the scene.

"It was fortunate we had that first response," he said, "we were really lucky we had the right people there."

A father himself, Mr Karauria said: "There have been times when I've thought about it, when kids are hanging around the ocean, you've always got to be careful."

The certificates were presented nearly four years later as there had been a delay in the submission of the nomination by the police.