Campers were caught in floodwaters in south Wairarapa early on Saturday.
The Dominion Post reports a family camping beside the Oterei River in heavy rain escaped the rising water at 3.30am.
Stuart Newland, 28, of Palmerston North, rescued his daughter and nieces.
The paper says he then dragged his wheelchair-bound father-in-law to safety.
South Wairarapa District Mayor Adrienne Staples says she expected signs warning of the dangers of flooding, would have been put up in the area before Christmas.
Ms Staples told Summer Report she will seek an explanation on Monday morning as to why that did not happen.
However, she said people need to show some personal responsibility and those who camp next to any river in New Zealand have to be aware it could flood.