The Christmas road toll began early in Hawke's Bay, when a Dannevirke man was killed on Christmas Eve.
The man, aged in his 40s, died when his northbound Mitsubishi Chariot and a southbound truck collided on the Takapau Plains on Monday morning.
The Dannevirke man was travelling alone on State Highway 2, about 300m from Snee Rd, at the time of the head-on collision.
The truck driver, also believed to be from Dannevirke, was uninjured.
The severe crash impact crumpled the front of the white van, with car parts and belongings strewn across the 100km/h stretch of road.
Minutes later, a number of vehicles also collided when they approached the crash scene and braked.
Four people from those vehicles were airlifted to Hawke's Bay Hospital and were later discharged.
Hastings Road Policing Sergeant Ray Kirkby said it was a Christmas tragedy.
"It is horrible at this time of year," he said.
"The poor family, the loss they're going to suffer at this time of year.
"Christmas is never going to be the same for them again."
The accident scene was on a straight stretch of road, and there had been moderate drizzle in the region all morning.
The Serious Crash Unit was still investigating the cause of the tragic accident that Mr Kirby said was a warning to other motorists to take care this holiday period.
"This is a tragic reminder to all [motorists] on the roads over the holidays to keep themselves safe and drive to the conditions, especially as greater numbers of people are travelling away on holiday or to family and friends for Christmas," Mr Kirby said.
"We don't want to see anyone else needlessly die on our roads this holiday season."
The official holiday road toll period began at 4pm on Christmas Eve and ends at 6am on January 3.
Since the period started, one person was killed in a crash in Waikato yesterday afternoon.
A 3-year-old boy was also killed by a car in a driveway near Taupo, but was not included in the figures because the fatality did not occur on a public access-way.
Last year 19 people died and 381 were injured in crashes during the official Christmas holiday period.
There were 12 fatalities in 2010-11, 13 in 2009/10, and 25 in 2008/09.