The death of an 89-year-old local woman at Mangonui on Tuesday evening has been referred to the coroner.

A police spokesman said Anthea Goodwin and her nephew had left a restaurant on the waterfront about 7.30pm.

She crossed the road to the harbour edge, just south of the point where the Neva Clarke McKenna Boardwalk ends, to look at the fish she could hear splashing in the water.

Her nephew, who had had to wait for a car to pass before he could cross the road, found her moments later where she had fallen, into about 45cm of water. He managed to get her on to rocks before going for help, but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

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The police spokesman said Goodwin had not been well for some days, and it was possible that she had suffered a medical event before she fell.

She had been become a real identity in Mangonui over the around 35 years she had lived there.

In 2012 she received a Far North District Council Citizen's Award for her long involvement in environmental causes, the citation noting that she had covenanted part of her Kohumaru property, and set aside land at Berghan Point and the Tokerau dunes for conservation, planted trees at Cooper's Beach, recorded dotterels and trapped possums.

In 2018 Friends of Rangikapiti chairman John Haines said she was helping there in whatever way she could and at every opportunity, including "trundling" into the reserve with buckets of water in the dry season and helping to plant native species that would bring beauty and fragrance to visitors for generations to come.