A teenager is in a serious condition after tumbling from the top of a Whangārei waterfall and striking rocks before hitting the water below.

The accident left the young man with serious injuries and apparently unable to leave the water by himself.

Ambulance officers and fire crews called to help could only support the young man in the water below the Raumanga Falls until a Northland Emergency Services Trust helicopter was able to winch him clear.

A rescue helicopter paramedic reaches for the hook to winch the stretcher and patient out of Raumanga Falls. Photo / John Stone
A rescue helicopter paramedic reaches for the hook to winch the stretcher and patient out of Raumanga Falls. Photo / John Stone

Initial plans to walk the young man to waiting ambulances were shelved because of his injuries and the rough terrain to be negotiated on the track away from the waterfall.

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Instead, they waited an hour with increasing concern over the temperature of the water and its impact on their patient.

A St John spokesperson said an ambulance crew, rapid response unit and a helicopter from Whangarei were deployed after a call came in about a "water incident" at 1.53pm.

A young man with suspected back injuries in winched from Raumanga Falls by the Northland Rescue Helicopter. Photo / John Stone
A young man with suspected back injuries in winched from Raumanga Falls by the Northland Rescue Helicopter. Photo / John Stone

Eyewitnesses said the young man had fallen or jumped from the top of the falls, striking a rock ledge with his back as he fell towards the water below.

Raumanga Falls are a popular swimming spot about 3km from central Whangārei. The falls cascade then drop 15 metres to a swimming hole below.