Two lifeguards at a Far North beach have had their phones stolen while they were in the water, helping a man who was struggling.
The thief struck while two of the three lifeguards on patrol went to check on a kayaker at about midday on Sunday at Ahipara beach,
The Far North Surf Rescue Club said Ahipara beach did not have club rooms, and lifeguards' belongings and first aid equipment were kept under a gazebo.
Club chairman David Ross said it was the first time anything like this had happened.
"The lifeguards are there to keep the beaches safe and shouldn't have to worry about having their personal items being stolen.
"Items such as personal phones are sometimes the only way our young guards can keep in contact with family and friends while working away from home over the summer.
"These people are looking after us, why can't we look after them?" he said.
Mr Ross said the phones were vital for communication, and their theft caused problems during a subsequent emergency.
"Yesterday, we had quite a serious motorcycle accident on the beach and I was trying to get hold of the guards and there was no cellphone, so it was quite difficult actually. We had to send a member of the public down to go and alert them. So that's the downflow effect, when you have other instances and they have no cellphones. For the short term, it could have been actually quite disastrous."