A Whitby father who fought off a man who was trying to abduct his 3-year-old daughter says his neighbours are "the best people in the world".

The Porirua man was walking his daughter home from kindy along a secluded bush path when he noticed a "suspicious" man yesterday afternoon.

As they passed the man, he turned around and began to follow about a foot behind them, the father said.

"He was breathing weirdly, you're talking complete nutter, you could tell he wasn't right," he said.


The man was swearing under his breath as he followed the pair.

The father decided to take his daughter up to the road so they were in plain sight of other people.

As they walked along Exploration Way, they passed a respite care house for mentally unwell people. The father, who assumed the man was from there, hoped he would turn off and leave them alone.

Instead, the man turned to grab the little girl.

What happened next seemed to happen in slow motion for the father, but actually took mere minutes.

"I pulled him away, stood in front of him and told him to back off. That's when he lunged at me."

The father picked up his daughter and ran into the middle of the street calling for help, as the man chased them and tried to grab at them.

"We started sort of half wrestling, half fighting in the street," the father said.

He tried to get his daughter to run away, but being too young she did not understand and tried to come back to her father.

A neighbour came running out and picked up the girl, taking her back into her house and locked the door.

"He released me and chased after them."

Another man was standing on the neighbour's property and tried to stop the attacker, but he was unstoppable.

"He grabbed him, threw him through the fence, and carried on."

As the man rattled at the door handle, the two men and another neighbour managed to subdue him and hold him until police arrived.

Caregivers from the respite care house came out, but did not appear to be interested in what had happened, the father said.

By the time police arrived, the man was lying flat on the ground.

"He sort of calmed down and started muttering lots of nonsensical babble. He calmed right down to the point where he actually went limp."

The father was grateful his neighbours had been there and had jumped in to help without a thought of self-preservation.

"My neighbours are the best people in the world," he said.

He was also thankful his wife, who is six months pregnant, was not the one walking their daughter home that day.

The father said his daughter was none the worse for wear.

"She understands what's happened. She knows that a bad man effectively tried to take her, and daddy stopped him, and someone grabbed her and then the cops came and put him in prison."

It was the father's birthday when the incident happened as well, but he is now looking at the bright side.

"[She's] fine, I'm fine. In that situation it was a good result. You could sit around, do the hypotheticals as we've done, everyone has done ... it's the best of a bad situation."

The father wanted to make it clear they did not know the man who attacked them, and had not provoked him.

He is organising a meeting for Monday with Pathways, the organisation running the respite care home, as well as a representative from Capital and Coast DHB.

He wanted the house gone from their street and said it was now just a question of when that would happen.

A DHB spokesman confirmed an investigation had been launched into the situation.

A 32-year-old man has been arrested and was due to appear in the Porirua District Court this morning charged with attempted abduction and two counts of assault.

The man, who has interim name suppression, was unable to appear in court his morning, and was remanded to next week.