Two schools in Kaitaia, Northland, went into lockdown today following reports of a man with a gun wearing a balaclava nearby.
But after hours of searching, police have now lifted the lockdown, saying they believe the gunman has left the area.
A member of the public reported seeing the man before midday behind Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Pukemiro school, which backs onto some bushland and a cemetery.
Rohario Te Waka works at the school and says they were able to move all their 80 students off the premises to a safe address.
Ms Te Waka said there was a heavy police presence and police dogs could be seen in the area.
Kaitaia College also went into lockdown. One student from there told 1 NEWS they have been made to hide in the cupboard and weren’t allowed to talk.
Another year 12 student said their teacher told them to keep calm.
“We were all scared. Some were crying, others were trying to message their parents to tell them what was happening, reassuring them they were OK," the student said.
The student said they were lying on the floor.
Police said they are yet to find the gunman, and inquiries are ongoing into finding out who he is.
A police dog team had searched the area, authorities said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Kaitaia Police by phoning 105 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.