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Coastguard say a family were dredging for scallops when their small boat capsized on the northern side of the harbour near Panguru at 6.10pm yesterday.
The father left his children aged 4 and 6 and his partner on the upturned hull while he swam 300m to shore to get help.
The mother and children were found by a rescue crew from Hokianga Coastguard who plucked them from their stricken vessel.
The trio, who were wearing lifejackets, were all suffering from mild hypothermia.
Locals on the northern side of the harbour came to the aid of the man who swam ashore, taking him to a home where he was given a warm shower, dry clothes and a hot drink.
Meanwhile, the skipper of Coastguard's Hokianga Rescue took the mother and her two children in his own truck to Rawene Medical Centre for assessment.
The Coastguard Operations Centre phoned the thankful father to tell him his family were safe and well at the medical centre.