The heroic actions of four onlookers ultimately saved a man from drowning, police say.

The man, believed to have been collecting mussels off the beach near Richmond Rd, was spotted in trouble in the water by two men fishing nearby.

One of the fishermen dialled 111 before grabbing a long piece of rope from his ute, and flagged down two people passing by to ask if they were confident swimmers.

One of the passers-by, a woman, agreed to enter the water, and was able to reach the struggling man and get the rope around him.

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The two fishermen then helped bring the man to shore.

Senior Constable Andy Clinton says Police arrived on scene to find the man unresponsive.

"I have to admit, we feared the worst," he says.

"However thankfully he was able to be revived.

"I have no doubt that if it wasn't for the actions of those people we would have had another drowning statistic on our hands."

The man was transported to hospital by ambulance.

A St John ambulance service spokesperson said they received a call to Richmond Rd, Clive, at 5.02pm.

The man received medical treatment before he was transported to Hawke's Bay Hospital in a serious condition.

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Police are keen to thank the rescuers, and plan to speak with them to acknowledge their actions this week.