A man armed with an assault rifle has unleased a hail of bullets at police officers during a "quite frightening" response to a speeding incident in the Waikato town of Morrinsville.
They are still hunting for the offender, who may still be armed, following the gunfight which happened on the southern edge of the town early on Sunday morning.
It started when a sole police officer tried to stop a red late model Holden Commodore which was speeding through the town centre.
The driver stopped on Kuranui Road, got out and fired what was believed to be a military-style semi-automatic rifle at the officer, Waikato district commander, Superintendent Bruce Bird, told reporters on Sunday afternoon.
The "substantial amount of gunfire" forced the officer to withdraw minutes before two more officers arrived.
"When the other police officers arrived our information is that attack intensified and we returned fire as well," Supt Bird said.
There were no injuries to the police officers but it was unclear if the driver was wounded.
Armed police are still searching for the gunman. Supt Bird would not confirm if they had recovered the assault rifle.
There were two other people in the car, a man and a woman. Police found one at the scene and the other later in Morrinsville. They are being spoken to.
"This is quite frightening. It's an attack of an intensity on a police officer that I have not come across in 40 years of my service," says Supt Bird.
"I think everybody should be vigilant we just don't know what the mindset of this particular offender is."
He urged people in Morrinsville to call police on spotting anything suspicious or to contact them if anyone knew anything about the Commodore, registration 1 AZIF 1.
Resident Craig Burmester told NZME he and his wife were woken by gunfire about 12.15am. There were an "awful" lot of shots, he said.
"It was pretty scary. It's just lucky no one was injured," he said when he realised it was a shootout.
Meanwhile, Fairfax reports it understood one of the weapons involved was an AK47 assault rifle, and the red Holden was left with five bullet holes in the windscreen while a nearby police car had more shots through its rear window.