A young woman went from the high of paddling a waka into Auckland Harbour for the start of the Rugby World Cup to the low of being in a hospital bed with broken ribs after being "set upon" by the crowd, an elder says.

The woman was one of six waka crew members taken to hospital after the RWC opening celebrations on Friday.

She was in one of two crews which became separated from their group and found themselves caught in the crush at an overcrowded Queens Wharf - dubbed party central but anything but for the Tai Tokerau group.

It was the latest debacle from an opening that was fraught with disasters; at least 2000 people missed the opening ceremony at Eden Park because of train delays, and people were crushed at Queens Wharf when more than 200,000 people poured into downtown the area for the celebrations.

Niki Pauhara, who co-ordinated seven waka from Tai Tokerau, said the two female crews were the last of five groups trying to make their way through the crowd back to their hotel.

They were still in traditional dress, had bare feet and were carrying hohe (oars), so were readily identifiable.

"There were a lot of young people that were under the influence of alcohol, who then became very aggressive," Mr Pauhara told APNZ.

"They (the women) were kicked and punched and bottles were thrown at them."

Three crews of men in front of the women realised what was happening and surrounded the second group, which included older women and children, flanking them to push their way through the crowd to their hotel.

Three were treated there and six taken to hospital by ambulance for injuries including broken ribs, cuts and bruises.

The actions of those who attacked were "cowardly" and showed alcohol and tikanga (custom) did not mix, Mr Pauhara said.

"We were there to represent New Zealand and we thought we had done it to the best of our ability," he said.

Police were investigating but the sheer number of people at the event meant it would be hard to identify those involved.

MP for for Tamaki Makaurau Pita Sharples attended an urgent hui (meeting) about the incident on Saturday and said better preparation was needed to ensure public safety and security.

Dr Sharples, who is Maori Affairs Minister, planned to write to RWC Minister Murray McCully and Auckland Mayor Len Brown urging them to make it a priority.

"We need to be satisfied from Government and the council alike that such dangerous overcrowding will be addressed and that appropriate controls to manage crowd behaviour will be instigated before the next large event takes place," he said..

The groups had travelled to Auckland to join the waka fleet which signalled the opening of the RWC and the sight of the waka entering Auckland was "acknowledged around the world as one of the highlights of the day", Dr Sharples said.

"I am only sorry that the paddlers on those waka did not receive the respect they deserved."

But several people contacted APNZ to say the group was not singled out, and that many were caught in the crush prompted by people trying to get a view of TV screens which were working.

"Lots of people at the waterfront were expecting to be able to watch the waka arrival and the rest of the ceremonies on the big screens, however all the big screens west of the ferry building could not be turned on," Cristian said.

"This caused a big movement of the crowd exactly at the time of the waka paddler's procession, towards the ferry building (with the only working screens), and further overcrowding of the area in front of ferry building and the Queen's Wharf.

"... there was a lot of pushing and crowd movement."

Caroline said she was at Queens Wharf with her husband and two teenage boys and got caught in the crush.

"A man with the waka crew was very aggressive to the people around. Everyone was getting crushed and he blamed the crowd, who were getting pushed forward," she said.

"What clearly didn't help was the oars they were holding lengthways, rather than into the air. People were getting crushed against them."

Anthony said he was in an area where "nobody could move an inch".

"The waka crew came barging through right next to me using their sticks/ores (sic) etc as shields, pushing everyone out of the way.

"It was really quite scary, and I'm a strong young guy."

He and friends had to form a barrier to protect three petite, elderly Indian women from the waka crew, who he said were aggressive.

"... they were acting like warriors and it was quite embarrassing, being a Kiwi and trying to explain this behaviour to foreigners next to me who were visibly upset."

The overcrowding was the catalyst but the actions of the crew compounded the problem, Anthony said.