A Maori couple say they will think twice about helping others after being pepper-sprayed and arrested when trying to help a seriously injured man on the Gold Coast.

Kararaina Ngoungou and Munro Waerea, both 24 and from Whakatane, were out on the last night of a holiday with two other former Otago University friends and another acquaintance.

The group of five had left their motel in Surfers Paradise just before midnight on Saturday when they saw a man who appeared to be in his mid-20s lying in a pool of blood on the footpath.

Police were standing by the man but left before the group reached him.

Ms Ngoungou, a dental hygienist, said she was worried about the man's condition because no ambulance had arrived. She took off her jumper and was looking for a wound so she could apply pressure while Mr Waerea checked for a pulse.

"I was thinking, 'Did he fall?, was he stabbed?' I was worried that no one was applying pressure to stop the blood. He was unconscious, this guy looked almost dead."

Moments later police returned to the scene and immediately approached the friends. One reached for his pepper-spray straight away, Mr Waerea said.

None of his group was given a chance to explain that they were trying to help.

"They were accusing us of doing something to this guy, [saying] 'What did you do to this guy?' I said to him, 'We're trying to help. Are you going to pepper-spray us for trying to help?"'

Asked if that could have provoked the police, Mr Waerea said he thought it was a reasonable question given what was happening. The group had been drinking but do not believe that contributed to the situation.

Mr Waerea was then knocked to the ground. His memory of what happened next is hazy because at some point he lost consciousness.

Ms Ngoungou said she watched police beat her partner's head into the ground.

"I saw my partner get knocked to the ground by one of the cops and he was holding my partner's head to the ground with his knee. We were trying to help this guy and, boom, we were getting arrested.

"There were others standing around but they came straight to us, almost like 'oh, they're some brown people causing trouble'."

The pair were taken to Southport Police Station, where they were let go at 4am. They say they were not asked for an official statement.

They believe police targeted them because of their skin colour.

Ms Ngoungou left Australia on Sunday morning. She is curious to find out what happened to the injured man, but is not sure whether she would step in to help others in future.

In a prepared response to Herald questions, Queensland police confirmed two New Zealand men had been arrested for obstructing police in View St, Surfers Paradise early on Sunday.

They refused to make further comment as the matter is before the courts.