1 NEWS Reporter
The sole occupant of a car died when it crashed in the Lower Buller Gorge.
Police said tonight the driver was initially reported overdue at 10.40am today as he was expected to arrive in Westport last night.
Police searched the route and the car was found off the road, having collided with a tree.
The driver, who was the only occupant of the car, died at the scene, police said.
The road is open tonight but a closure will be in place tomorrow to allow a crane to remove the car.
The Serious Crash Unit is investigating and police said while next of kin are being informed, no further information is available at this time.
Police say inquiries are ongoing tonight as they hunt a dangerous offender, and a man and woman are being questioned after a shootout with police in Morrinsville.
Police say no one was injured in the gunfire, which happened on Kuranui Road, to the south of the town, around midnight Saturday.
Waikato District Commander Superintendent Bruce Bird told reporters in Morrinsville this afternoon that shortly after midnight a single-crewed police vehicle came across a vehicle speeding in Morrinsville and the police officer gave pursuit for a short distance.
"The vehicle that was being pursued stopped and engaged that police officer in a substantial amount of gunfire. We believe the weapon that was used was a military style semi-automatic firearm," Mr Bird said.
The police officer withdrew immediately from the scene and as he did so came under further fire from the offender, he said.
The officer took cover in nearby farmland and called for back-up.
"A short time later, within a minute, a second police car with two police officers arrived at the scene and they engaged the offender where a substantial number of rounds were exchanged between police and the offender" before those two officers also took cover.
The area was quickly cordoned off and Waikato Armed Offenders Squad arrived to safely retrieve the three staff from the area.
Following inquiries this morning police located the vehicle and are speaking to two of the occupants - a man and woman aged probably between 25 and 35 - but are still seeking a further person.
Mr Bird said police would like to hear from anybody who knows or has connections to a red Commodore, registration number 1AZIF1 as that information "will give us an opportunity to locate this particularly dangerous offender as soon as possible".
The police officers involved have no physical injuries and police will be providing them with support, he said, adding the two people being spoken to are also not injured.
Morrinsville resident Craig Burmester said he and his wife were "woken up around midnight" and thought the gunshots were "fireworks, or a paint shop exploding, then we saw the police car."
He said they saw "four figures running down the road" who turned out to be armed police.
Mr Burmester said police called them half an hour later and said they should "stay inside, lock our doors and turn the lights off".
Minutes late a police helicopter arrived.
Mr Bird said he, and he's sure the communities of New Zealand are very proud of "the bravery shown by our officers as they continue to protect our society from offenders like this who choose to take fire at police officers.”
He also thanked the community who have provided a substantial amount of information, and appealed for any further information people have have that may help the investigation.