Three people had to be rescued from an island in the rain-swollen Waitangi River yesterday by police and volunteer firefighters.

Two girls, aged 12 and 13, were taking a cooling dip with a board and an inflatable yellow duck to escape yesterday's heat when the current, fed by several days' rain, swept them on to a small island behind the Watea subdivision, upstream from Haruru Falls, about 1pm.

The 13-year-old's mother went out on a kayak to help them but became stuck on another island. The girls tried to go to her aid and all ended up stranded on one small island.

Neighbours saw the drama unfolding and urged them to stay put while they called 111.

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Volunteer firefighters, local residents and police used a paddleboard and rope to rescue the stranded woman. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Volunteer firefighters, local residents and police used a paddleboard and rope to rescue the stranded woman. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Police and the Paihia Fire Brigade, which has a specialist line rescue crew, responded.

The brigade called ahead to another neighbour, who had a paddleboard, then secured it with a rope and used it to ferry the stranded swimmers to the river bank.

A member of the public and a female police officer took the board out, rescuing the girls first. The rescuers were able to stand up but the current was powerful.

Veronica, 13, who didn't want her last name used, was grateful to the police, firefighters and neighbours who had rescued them. They spent about 30 minutes on the island.

Her mother, Ge, from Watea, said she had no problem paddling out to the girls at first, but then the current changed and she was unable to return.

The 12-year-old was visiting from Hamilton.

Paihia Fire Brigade senior station officer Michael Fayne said the current would have been daunting so they did the right thing by waiting to be rescued.

He was not sure if an inflatable duck was a suitable buoyancy aid in such a strong current but everything worked out well in the end.

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A Police Ten-7 crew, who happened to be in Kerikeri at the time, filmed the action for a future episode.