Police have named the seven-year-old boy and his uncle who drowned while trying to save a relative at a beach near Wairoa.
Sage Wi Smith, who was 22 and from Wairoa, and Kustom Michael Soljah Blandford of Auckland died at Iwitea on Monday afternoon.
Family members say the pair had gone into the water to rescue a younger girl who had been swept out to sea by a wave.
The girl they were trying to rescue managed to make it back to shore, but the boy and his uncle got into difficulties.
They were part of a group preparing for a wedding and the police say the news has devastated the family.
Their deaths have been referred to the Coroner.