Six boaties were rescued by passers-by as their vessel struck rocks and sank in Northland this afternoon.

Police were called after a boat began to sink in Kowharewa Bay, north of Ngunguru, about 25km north-east of Whangarei, a spokeswoman said.

Police were alerted to the incident at 4.35pm.

Those aboard were rescued and taken back to shore by locals in the area. It was unclear whether the stricken boaties were pulled from the water or plucked from the sinking vessel, which later sank.

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None of the boaties were injured, the spokeswoman said.

A St John Spokeswoman said they didn't attend the accident, nor did Maritime New Zealand or the Coastguard.