A child and woman in her 30s were airlifted to Auckland hospital in a critical condition after a boat overturned off Port Waikato on Sunday night.
About 5.30pm police were notified of three people in trouble after a boat overturned off the Port Waikato bar.
By 6pm the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter had arrived, and assisted by the Police Eagle helicopter began to search the Waikato coastline.
A police spokesperson said the Eagle helicopter scanned the coastline for people possibly lost overboard, eventually locating the three people in distress in the water.
It is not clear if they were still on board their boat, or separated in the water.
The Westpac helicopter then attempted to winch a paramedic down to the people stranded in the water but conditions prevented it.
Instead, the chopper crew then dragged, via rope, a separate inflatable rescue vessel, which the three patients were now on board, back to the beach through rough surf.
As of 7.40pm the three people had been rescued, police confirmed.
Members of the Kariaotahi Surf Club were also brought in.
In a post on their Facebook page, they described how dark conditions were due to no moonlight available to assist them in their search for the people in the water.
They instead waited on shore to allow the choppers to search using night vision equipment, but that was only half the rescue.
"Next was to get them out of the water, Westpac Rescue attempted a winch however due to the conditions it was deemed unsafe, this was when our IRB was called up. Two of our senior callout squad operators launched the boat and navigated through the surf under spotlight and direction from the two choppers.
"We found the 3 in the water and got them into the boat and back onto land within 4 mins from initial launch. Patients were treated for hypothermia and shock, 2 were airlifted to hospital in a critical condition with CPR required for one."
The surf club described the incident as "definitely a rescue for the record books and we are proud to be part of such a massive multi-agency effort".
"We wish the 3 involved all the best for a their recovery," they wrote.
As the patients were taken to hospital, helicopter staff performed CPR on the woman patient in her 30s, on route to Auckland City Hospital.
The child in a critical condition was flown to Starship Children's Hospital.
A third male patient was taken to hospital by ambulance in a minor condition.