Two women swept away in a raging stream spent five hours in the water before they could be rescued.
It is understood one woman was in a kayak and the other on a lilo when they got into trouble on the swollen Otiria Stream, near Moerewa, about 11am on Saturday.
They fell in at Otiria Falls and the kayak and lilo were swept away.
A Moerewa resident saw the women in the water near and alerted rural firefighters as they were pumping out a flooded street about 4pm.
Deputy rural fire chief Clinton Lyall notified police and the Fire and Emergency communications centre, then took a crew to find the women.
They were spotted on the far side of the flooded stream hanging onto willow trees.
''We told then to stay put while we worked out a safe way to get them out with what we had,'' Lyall said.
The stream was a raging torrent and couldn't be crossed, but the crew was able to get close to the women by crossing farmland on the other side of the creek. They still had to cross a flooded paddock to reach them, however.
Kaikohe firefighter Hamish Lewis donned a lifejacket, waded through chest-deep water, and made sure the women couldn't be swept away.
He was followed by iwi liaison officer Roger Dephoff, of Kawakawa police. Each took one of the women and helped them back to dry land.
Dephoff said the current was strong even in the paddock and the women, who were cold and losing strength, may not have made it on their own.
Paddling on a kayak and lilo wasn't a great idea in Saturday's conditions, he said.
Lyall said the women told him they'd been in the water since 11am. By the time they were delivered to Bay of Islands Hospital it was 5.20pm.
He believed doctors planned to keep them in overnight as a precaution.
Firefighters and police carried out a ''dynamic risk assessment'' before deciding not to wait for better rescue gear to arrive.
''They'd been in the water for five hours. We weren't going to wait another hour.''
Despite being wet and cold they were in good spirits.
The water was still rising when the women were rescued.
''If they'd been swept away it could've been a different outcome,'' Lyall said.