A Whangarei PostShop was robbed of hundreds of dollars in Northland's fourth aggravated robbery within three weeks.
Whangarei police were called to the Onerahi PostShop yesterday after a robbery in which a gun-wielding man demanded money from a staff member, saying he did not want to hurt her.
Officers were quick to cordon off nearby streets and call in a police dog and handler, after the alarm was raised about 2.30pm.
Thirty minutes later the police canine team found an imitation firearm, other items and a bag believed to have been used in the robbery, hidden on a bush track off Waverley St.
A search of scrub behind the Onerahi Tavern and into a nearby gully failed to uncover the robber or provide a track to follow, Detective Sergeant Shane Pilmer said.
Because of the risk of a potentially armed and dangerous man on the loose, children at two nearby childcare centres were kept in until 3.30pm yesterday, when police confirmed they had found the "firearm".
The man they are looking for is Maori, in his late teens or early twenties. At the time of the robbery he was wearing a green hoodie pulled up over a cap, black or dark blue trackpants, and black and white sneakers.
Mr Pilmer said the fourth robbery of its type in only three weeks was alarming because of "the potential for things to go horribly wrong", particularly if a gun was real.
The staff member was distraught after yesterday's incident but had kept a cool head and "did everything right," he said.
The two other staff and one customer in the shop at the time were unaware of what was happening until the man fled.
Close circuit television footage showed he had come from the direction of Waverley St and ran back that way after the robbery, Mr Pilmer said.
He was reluctant to speculate on any link between an armed robbery at Destination Dairy on August 26 - also a Monday - and yesterday's PostShop raid.
"We're concerned about the number of robberies we're having, it's very alarming," Mr Pilmer said.
"All we can say is if you are in that situation, stay calm and listen to and do what you are told."
The Shed Liquor Centre in Kaikohe was robbed on Saturday at 5.15pm. A balaclava-wearing man pointed what was thought to be a pistol at the store worker and stole a large amount of cash.
On August 26, at Destination Dairy on Riverside Drive, a robber armed with a gun burst into the shop about 4.25pm, pointed the gun at the female shop worker and demanded money. He then grabbed the till, ripped it from the wall and ran off.
On August 17, a female shop worker in Ruakaka had a shotgun pointed at her head as a robber demanded cash and tobacco.
The woman was about to close up the Oasis Store in Bream Bay Drive, Ruakaka, about 7.30pm. Twelve days later, police recovered a gun at a house in Kamo and arrested two men.
The pair were charged with aggravated robbery and theft.
Police are calling on anyone with information on any of the robberies to contact Whangarei police on (09) 430 4500 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.