Firefighters prepping for an emergency rescue training session swung into action to help a man suspected to have fallen an estimated 50m down a cliff.

Police and St John paramedics rushed to join a group of firefighters at Paranui Falls in AH Reed Memorial Park in Whangarei about 3pm on Monday while a helicopter arrived shortly after to airlift the injured person.

The man was winched up into a helicopter and flown to the Whangarei Hospital in a critical condition.

St John acting district operations manager Wally Mitchell said the man had multiple injuries and it was best to winch him rather than carry him to a waiting ambulance.


Fire Service area commander Whangarei and Kaipara Brad Mosby said two teams of eight firefighters were preparing for their routine emergency rescue training by the Paranui Falls' carpark when they were told about the injured man.

Mr Mosby estimated the cliff, from the highest point, was about 50m but could not say where the man may have fallen from.

The waterfall is 24 metres high.

Mr Mosby said the training the firefighters were ready to embark on was to do with live rescues - exactly the type of emergency that unfolded at the bottom of the waterfall. He described it as a "textbook" rescue.

"Fortunately our crews were here for training and they acted quickly. The call to get the helicopter was made pretty early and they stabilised the patient and prepared the patient for the airlift.

"We've given this person another chance to survive now," he said.

Mr Mosby said the rescue was another great example of emergency services working together seamlessly during a "challenging" rescue.

Northland District Health Board spokeswoman Liz Inch said the man's injuries were being assessed and that it was too early to say whether he would be treated at Whangarei Hospital or taken to Auckland.