Three swimmers had to be rescued from an island in the rain-swollen Waitangi River last week by police and volunteer firefighters.

Two girls, aged 12 and 13, were taking a dip with a board and an inflatable yellow duck when the current, fed by several days' rain, swept them on to a small island behind the Watea subdivision, upstream from Haruru Falls.

The 13-year-old's mother went out on a small kayak to help them but ended up stuck on another island. The girls then tried to go to her aid, and all ended up stranded on one small island.

Neighbours saw what was happening and urged them to stay put while they called 111.
Police and the Paihia Fire Brigade, which has a specialist line rescue crew, responded< The brigade called ahead to another neighbour who had a paddleboard, then secured it with a rope and used it to ferry the stranded swimmers to the river bank.


One firefighter and a female police officer volunteered to take the board out, rescuing first the girls, then the woman. The rescuers were able to stand up but the current was powerful. Veronica, 13, who didn't want to give her last name, said she was grateful to the police, firefighters and neighbours who had rescued them. She estimated they had spent about half an hour stuck on the island.

Her mother, Ge, from Watea, said she had no problem paddling out to the girls at first, but then the current changed.

The 12 year old was visiting from Hamilton.

Paihia Fire Brigade Senior Station Officer Michael Fayne said the current would have been daunting, so the swimmers did the right thing by waiting to be rescued. He was not sure if an inflatable duck was a suitable buoyancy aid in such a strong current, but everything worked out well in the end.

A Police Ten-7 crew, who happened to be in Kerikeri at the time, filmed the action for a future episode.