The first person to die on New Zealand roads this year was a Tauranga man involved in a crash on State Highway 29a.

The fatal crash was the most serious incident recorded by emergency services during a relatively quiet New Year's Eve in Tauranga and the Western Bay.

The 69-year-old driver had been travelling across the Maungatapu Bridge soon after the city celebrated the ringing in of 2018.

Western Bay of Plenty head of road policing Acting Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter said the car the man had been driving crossed the centre line and crashed head-on into a car being driven by a sober driver, taking a carload of drunk passengers home.

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Emergency services brace themselves for chaos at New Year's Eve celebrations at Mount Maunganui. Photo / Andrew Warner
Emergency services brace themselves for chaos at New Year's Eve celebrations at Mount Maunganui. Photo / Andrew Warner

None of the other people involved in the crash were injured, likely because the crash appeared to have been at a relatively low speed, Hunter said.

Police were still notifying family and investigating the cause of the crash, although Hunter said he did not believe alcohol was a factor.

Over the whole night, the Tauranga booze bus caught four drink drivers. On Friday the team caught 17 and on Saturday they caught 12.

"We're not happy with Friday's and Saturday's results. People must realise by now the odds of getting stopped at this time of year," Hunter said.

Motorists had generally been well behaved, patient and courteous for the amount of traffic on Bay roads, Hunter said.

Fourteen people were arrested for alcohol-related offences in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui on New Year's Eve.

The arrests prompted police acting area commander Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair to label the celebration as the best New Year's in years.

"This has been an outstanding New Year's ... It was more like a busy weekend night."

The arrests did not include a person taken into custody after allegedly throwing petrol on or nearby a home in Golden Sands Dr, Papamoa.

St John's ambulance territory manager Ross Clarke said it was a mostly quiet evening until about 1am yesterday. "Then it really became quite frantic."

"From about 1ish to about 4am to 4.30am, there were a lot of party-related incidents, accidents and run-of-the-mill work. Previous New Years there were plenty of assaults but I don't think we went to too many this time."

At Tauranga Hospital about 90 per cent of cases at the Emergency Department were alcohol-related - either people getting drunk, getting hurt from fights or falling over or some with pre-existing medical conditions meaning "it probably wasn't wise to be drinking in the first place".

Dr Derek Sage said while some of the patients may have used inappropriate language at times, there was no physical violence towards staff.

Emergency services reported a relatively quiet New Year's Eve in Tauranga and the Western Bay. Photo / Andrew Warner
Emergency services reported a relatively quiet New Year's Eve in Tauranga and the Western Bay. Photo / Andrew Warner

Dr Sage expected the hospital's emergency department to remain busy until the middle of next week because of holidaymakers in town, the public holidays and reduced GP availability in the holiday season.

Tauranga City Council festivities have been heralded a success. More than 5000 people attended the free celebrations in the city held at Tauranga waterfront and Papamoa.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said the celebrations would not have been as successful without community support.

"I'd like to thank the community for getting behind our celebrations ... Our events team worked closely with police, emergency services, security companies and roading contractors when planning the events, to ensure everyone can enjoy a safe environment for an unforgettable start to the new year. Thanks to all businesses for their support."

Additional reporting Scott Yeoman