Four people were arrested on the Hawke's Bay Expressway yesterday, just minutes after being allegedly involved in Hawke's Bay's latest dairy robbery.

About 2pm yesterday, they robbed the Westshore Corner Store, where there was a sole male attendant.

The victim said the group had come into the store and "put a knife on me".

He did not want to speak further about the incident last night.

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Detective Sergeant Darren Pritchard, of Hawke's Bay CIB, said a crucial factor in a quick end to the mid-afternoon emergency was an alert member of the public's decision to note the registration number of a suspicious blue station wagon seen speeding away from the area of the Westshore Corner Store.

Soon afterwards, the vehicle was stopped on the expressway near Hastings and police arrested three men aged up to 30 years, and the vehicle's 19-year-old female driver.

At least two people entered the shop armed with a knife and demanded cigarettes and cash from the sole male attendant, Mr Pritchard said.

A large quantity of cigarettes and tobacco was taken along with several hundred dollars in cash, but all was believed to have been recovered when police stopped the southbound vehicle carrying the quartet near the Evenden Rd roundabout.

A section of the expressway was closed to traffic for a short time as the arrests were made at the side of the road, but Mr Pritchard said those in the vehicle complied with police requests to stop and the arrests took place without incident as other officers moved in to search the vehicle.

The arrested people are expected to appear in Hastings District Court today.

The robbed dairy is on the corner of Charles and Alfred streets, a block from the Westshore beachfront, and across the road from Westshore School, which was closed for the school holidays.

It was not immediately clear if the attendant in the shop was an owner or not, but there were understood to have been no injuries to staff. The robbery was the latest in a spate targeting dairies, service stations and bars in Hawke's Bay, mainly in Napier and Hastings, since cigarette and tobacco price increases were announced in the Government's Budget in May.

The spate, similar to others around the country in possibly the worst winter of robberies in New Zealand history, included at least 18 raids in four months and an apparent three-week lull since the next-most recent, when three people were involved in an early Friday night robbery on September 16 at the League Park Dairy on Taradale Rd, Napier, barely 2km from the scene of yesterday's heist.