A group of freedom campers sleeping in a car park beside a Hawke's Bay river narrowly escaped being swept into the sea as the river rose around them in the night.

Phillippa Duncan was one of many freedom campers parked up for the night along the Clive River near the Waka Ama boat sheds along the bank.

"The night before I decided to move my van up the bank because I had heard from locals in the past that when the rain sets in the river rises quite a bit," she said.

The New Plymouth local said when she woke

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