A man who went overboard from a fishing boat is lucky to be alive after a police helicopter spotted him - about 45 minutes after he had got into the water.

Police said the man had been on a fishing vessel near Pakatoa Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, when he went overboard at around 2 o'clock this morning.

In a statement just released, police said there were "grave fears" for the man.

The police eagle chopper was sent out to help in the search for and found him in the water - alive. The police maritime unit, Deodar, was called out to rescue the man, who by then had spent about 45 minutes in the sea.

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He was said to be tired and cold but otherwise well.