The New Year has begun tragically for a Northland family with the death of a 35-year-old man after what police describe as an unprovoked attack.

About 11pm on New Year's Eve a police patrol car was flagged down in Bonnett Rd, Kaitaia, by a member of the public who had found a badly injured man lying on the side of the road.

The officers attempted first aid and called for an ambulance, which rushed him to Kaitaia Hospital. He was later flown to Whangarei Hospital's intensive care unit and placed on life support.

The man, who was from Kaitaia, died yesterday afternoon.


Police know who the dead man is but are not releasing his name, or further details about how he died, until they are certain all his next of kin have been notified.

A total of 15 police officers from Kaitaia, Kaikohe and Kerikeri, as well as crime scene specialists from ESR in Auckland, are working on a homicide investigation they have called Operation Shakespeare.

A scene examination where the man was found was completed around 5pm yesterday. Police are also going door-to-door in the area gathering information.

A post mortem will be carried out to confirm the cause of death.

Detective Inspector Kevin Burke, of Northland police, said it was a tragic way to start the New Year.

"This is a tragic start to the new year for a family. This appears to be an unprovoked attack which has resulted in this man's death," Mr Burke said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Rhys Johnston said the focus of this stage of the investigation was to establish what the victim had been doing and who he was with on New Year's Eve.

Police were also working to find out exactly who was in the area, including the guests at a wedding function that evening on Bonnett Rd.

The victim was wearing black shorts, a grey hooded sweatshirt and steel-capped work boots.

Mr Burke urged anyone who saw the victim earlier in the evening, or who had been to the wedding, to call the Kaitaia police station on (09) 408 6500.

Information can also be passed to Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.