A man was seriously injured when a beekeepers' party turned ugly.

The annual beekeepers' shout was held at Horeke Tavern, South Hokianga, on Saturday night but police said "historic issues" flared up at some point and a staff member was set upon by patrons.

Police described the assault as "pretty shocking" and said it left the victim with multiple injuries.

It is understood up to three men set upon the barman, who suffered bruising to his face and head, a gash under one eye and suspected broken ribs.

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It is thought one of the men involved in the attack had earlier been asked to leave the pub due to concerns over his behaviour.

With no police based in Horeke, officers had to travel from Rawene and Kaikohe, both of which are at least half an hour's drive away.

No arrests had been made this morning but the police Criminal Investigation Unit was investigating.

Horeke Tavern, on the Hokianga Harbour waterfront, is one of a handful of claimants for the title of New Zealand's oldest pub.

Its licence was issued in 1842 but it has been trading at least since the current hotel was built in 1833. The first pub on the site was reportedly opened in 1826.

The once thriving settlement of Horeke has been in economic decline for many years but the newly opened Twin Coast Cycle Trail, which stretches from Opua in the east to Horeke in the west, offers hope of revival.