Four rescued from burning boat

Four people have been rescued from a sinking fishing boat on the West Coast after a fire broke out.

West Coast search and rescue co-ordinator Sean Judd said the crew on the Honey Dew, near Knights Point, north of Haast, set off a red flare about 6.25am today as it began "taking on water".

Judd understood the flare was seen by another boat, which raised the alarm and responded to the call for help.

"A red flare is a bit like a 111 call; it gets treated in the same fashion here," Judd said.

The fishermen were "safe and well" on the Grace Mary, which is heading to Jacksons Bay and expected to arrive about 3pm.

Judd said it was fortunate the other fishing boat was only about an hour and a half away.

"It's a very isolated part of the coast. They're lucky there was another fishing vessel out there at the time.''

The only option was to send the rescue helicopter, which was tied up with a road accident, he said.

The Greymouth-based coastguard was several hours away.

Judd said the boat in trouble did not issue a radio mayday call, but he did not know why.

The stricken Honey Dew had since sunk into the reef, about 500 metres offshore near Knights Point, but parts of it remained visible, he said.

The management of the vessel is under the authority of Maritime New Zealand.

Police are investigating the incident.

The Press