They didn't think they would be able to do it, but a Houhora Fire Brigade crew managed to retrieve a campervan from the Tasman Sea south of Hukatere on Monday night.
Chief Fire Officer Warren Bunn doubted that the vehicle would ever return to the road, "but at least we got it off the beach."
The crew towed the vehicle some 500m to the beach access at Hukatere, and left it there for a professional tower to collect it the following day.
The alarm was raised just before 9.30pm, apparently by a woman who was driving down the beach to Ahipara and saw the van in the water, with its hazard lights flashing. The fire crew arrived shortly after, and were pondering the situation when a wave pushed the vehicle shorewards a little, encouraging them to attempt to retrieve it.
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"The water had gone right through it so it was a goner, but we didn't want to leave it there," Bunn said.
Monday night's tide was a big one, he said, and it was "sweeping pretty well," while the Kaitaia Fire Brigade, which was also called out, got as far as Waipapakauri Ramp, where the sweeps were reaching the toe of the ramp several hours before high tide, and decided not to risk the 16km drive up the beach.
Whoever had been in the campervan had gone by the time the Houhora crew arrived.