A man and woman drowned after being swept off rocks at a popular but "extremely dangerous" fishing spot at West Auckland beach.

Police were called to Muriwai beach about 2pm after reports two people had been swept off rocks in the area. It is understood they had been fishing at the time.

Initial police reports said both people, who were in their 40s, were recovered from the water and that one had died while the other had been taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Police later said the second person, who was rescued from the water, had also died.

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Mana Nightingale was heading out to the beach with his partner to take some photographs when they heard sirens coming up behind them on Motutara Rd.

"When we got to the gannet lookout, we saw the police helicopter circling the lookout.

"We then walked to the other side of the lookout where we saw a lifeguard boat speeding to the other side of the beach near the gannets,'' he said.

"We ran to the other side and as it slowed down, we looked closer to find a man being pulled onto the boat. Such a tragic event.''

The swell at Muriwai was building to more than a metre today with moderate onshore winds.

The water temperature was just over 14C and high tide was just before midday.

Muriwai fire brigade chief Phelan Pirrie was among emergency staff called out to the rocks this afternoon.

He has been a part of the brigade for about 13 years and acknowledged that there had been many similar tragedies at what locals knew to be one of several notoriously dangerous - and deadly - West Coast beaches.

"People just keep underestimating how dangerous it is out here.

"There's been signs about wearing life jackets ... if you're on the rocks, being careful and treating it as being extremely dangerous.

"I don't know, the message doesn't seem to get through, unfortunately. It's really tragic."

He said it did not appear the two people involved had been wearing life jackets at the time.

The area was also very slippery; particularly during winter, he said.

Pirrie, also the deputy chairman of the Rodney Local Board, said they had worked over the years to ensure safety signs were updated in those spots popular with fishermen.

"The surges that go through around the rocks are really strong. But it's very unusual for it to be calm in Muriwai.

"We've tried to put up more signs, tried to make things really clear ... communicating the risks. But the message doesn't get through to everyone.

"I've been in the brigade for 13 years and I think ... it seems to happen every year, there's an incident. We don't go to all of them, but I know the lifeguards go to quite a few.

"I don't know what it is. It's awful, actually. It just keeps happening."

Emergency staff at Muriwai Beach this afternoon, where two people drowned after being swept off rocks. Photo / Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter
Emergency staff at Muriwai Beach this afternoon, where two people drowned after being swept off rocks. Photo / Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter

The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called to Muriwai also.

A spokesman said as the crew were on way there, they were told one person had drowned.

"On [our] arrival, CPR was in progress on the second patient - a female believed to be in her forties and in a critical condition.

"After a period of time, despite all efforts to save her, the patient was sadly confirmed deceased as well.''

Members of the Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service's call-out squad were also out helping police at the scene.

A spokesman acknowledged the tragedy: "Our condolences to the friends and family and our thoughts are with all those involved.''

The deaths will be referred to the Coroner.