A 54-year-old Palmerston North man died at Cable Bay on Tuesday afternoon after going to the rescue of his three children, who were caught in a rip.

A member of the public went to his rescue when he saw he was in trouble. It took some 10 minutes to get him back to the beach, according to police, by which time he was unresponsive. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

An 11-year-old girl who was rescued by a holiday-maker on a paddle board was flown to Whangarei Hospital.

She was breathing but unconscious and in a critical condition when she was pulled from the water.

Advertisement

Yesterday she was in a hospital ward, her condition described as serious but stable.

Four children were assessed and treated at the scene.

It was initially reported, just after 4pm, up to six people were in trouble. Two rescue helicopters were dispatched, while police, St John and the Mangonui Fire Brigade also responded.

Mangonui Chief Fire Officer Antony Pedersen said the beach was busy at the time. Cable Bay was not known as dangerous, but choppy water and a strong wind may have generated an undertow on Tuesday.

It is understood that the father, his daughter and twin sons were holidaying in the Far North while the children's mother remained in Palmerston North.