Northland boat sinking: Rescuer describes pulling 'pretty wide-eyed' kids off rocks at Mokohinau Islands

The six people who were rescued from an island group off Northland's east coast after their catamaran hit rocks and sank were "pretty lucky" to get out of the ordeal alive.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust crew chief Mark Cannell spoke about early morning drama near the Mokohinau Islands. Source: 1 NEWS

That's according to Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, crew chief Mark Cannell who spoke with 1 NEWS.

"Pretty lucky with some of the circumstances, if there had been a subtle change quite often these things could go from a good outcome to a very bad outcome," Mr Cannell said.

The 30-foot catamaran struck rocks about 5am this morning near the Mokohinau Islands east of Whangarei and north of Great Barrier Island.

The passengers included two adult men and four children.

Mr Cannell said the children were "pretty wide-eyed" when they were being rescued off the rocks.

"The kids were pretty wide-eyed when we grabbed them off the rocks and lifted them into the helicopter," Mr Cannell said.

"They looked pretty sleepy after so I just think it was the shock of events of everything wearing off and they were pretty fatigued by the time they got back to Whangarei."

All six were taken to Whangarei's Kensington Hospital - they were cold, but largely uninjured.