At least 30 4WD vehicles, two boats and a jet ski came to the rescue on Sunday after a Nissan Safari got stuck in a Canterbury river.

A man who assisted in the salvage effort said he believed the owners of the vehicle became trapped as they tried to cross the Waimakariri River, north of Christchurch on Saturday.

"From what I can understand, they tried to cross the river upstream more, and the flow of the water caught them off guard," Blair Reed told the Herald.

"The 4WD started to get pushed downstream into the deeper part of the river."

A group of 4WD drivers pull a vehicle from the Waimakariri River in Canterbury Photo / Caleb Owens.
A group of 4WD drivers pull a vehicle from the Waimakariri River in Canterbury Photo / Caleb Owens.

He said at that stage, the owners abandoned the vehicle, and could do nothing but watch it float further downstream.

Three recovery attempts were made at low tide, but were unsuccessful, Reed said.

The following day at 6am, two boats and a jet ski began searching for the Safari, but were unable to spot it because the high tide fully submerged the vehicle.

"The decision was made to come back at low tide that night, and one of the jet boats had arranged to meet us.

"A call was put out on the '4WDing Canterbury & Beyond South Island' Facebook group for anyone with a winch and recovery ropes to come down and lend a hand," Reed said.

A group of 4WD enthusiasts banded together on the Waimakariri River yesterday to pull a vehicle from the water. WARNING - GRAPHIC LANGUAGE

About 30 vehicles and countless helpers turned up, and managed to hook an anchor to the front of the submerged Safari.

Two 4WD vehicles dislodged the stranded truck and moved it into shallower waters.

More vehicles were then attached by rope to the Safari, which was pulled ashore.

"It was an amazing effort by all involved," Reed said.

"By the looks of things, the owner of the 4WD had the engine running again on Monday, and already has plans to rebuild it ready for the summer."

Another man helping with the rescue, Caleb Owen, said it was great fun.

"It was good to see all the people out there helping and have a good laugh. It's not something people see all the time."