An Auckland coastguard manager has been honoured for saving the lives of a husband and wife in rough seas.
Last December, Ray Burge was driving past a bay near Maraetai with his family when he spotted a man in the water waving his arms and calling out for help.
He stopped the car and swam 200m from shore to rescue the man.
"You don't realise how far that is until you get half way, and then you discover it is quite a distance."
"I can swim, but it's not something I do every day of the week ... just before I got to him I had to do a bit of a risk-assessment to make sure I was going to be safe and be in a position to help him."
The man was "pretty anxious" and "fighting to keep his head above water", Mr Burge said.
He said it took all his strength to hold the man with one arm and swim back.
Once on shore, Mr Burge learned the man's wife was still in the water.
He directed a Coastguard boat to rescue her, about 400m offshore.
"I fortunately had a VHF radio in my vehicle and I was able to communicate then to the rescue boat and direct them to where they believed she had gone into the water."
"In less than a minute they had spotted her."
Mr Burge received a gold award from the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council at a presentation at Parliament.
Several other rescue personnel were also honoured - Ian Coard from Coastguard Riverton for his services to Coastguard and Coastguard Riverton; Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team, the Helicopter Line and Glentanner Park for their efforts in five challenging operations in 2016 and the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 3 Squadron for the rescue of two people from Archway Rocks, Wharariki Beach in February 2016.