What started as a simple petrol theft sparked a police drama in which armed officers sealed off a normally sleepy Kerikeri road while they searched for a fleeing suspect.

Just before 9am yesterday two men drove off from Kerikeri BP service station without paying for $40 worth of petrol. A witness suspected they had a gun in the vehicle.

A service station staff member called police and followed the pair at a safe distance as the car headed out of town down Inlet Rd, then turned into a driveway on Darwin Rd.

Armed police checked all vehicles leaving Darwin Rd. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Armed police checked all vehicles leaving Darwin Rd. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

When police arrived moments later one man gave himself up immediately. The other, however, fled on foot.

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Officers armed with rifles closed off the road with spikes at the ready in case the wanted man tried to get away in another vehicle.

Police stopped cars entering the road and checked the boots of vehicles that were leaving.

A police dog handler and tracking dog arrived from Mangonui about 10am and searched a property next door to the house where the car was dumped. The dog was, however, unable to track his scent.

Even rubbish collection had to wait while police searched for their man. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Even rubbish collection had to wait while police searched for their man. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

The cordon was lifted about 10.40am with police telling residents they believed the offender was no longer in the area.

Residents stuck on the wrong side of the cordon included a family and their relatives visiting for the school holidays, who lived at the house where the offenders ditched their car.

A Levin woman, who did not want to be named, said she was visiting whanau on Darwin Rd and had been planning a fishing trip that morning.

She had just put out the rubbish and was about to drive into town to buy some bait when a "random car" pulled into the driveway. Police arrived moments later.

"And then we weren't allowed to go back."

The shaken family was unsure whether to continue with their fishing plans afterwards.

Eleven-year-old Jas waits until she is allowed to go back to her home on Darwin Rd. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Eleven-year-old Jas waits until she is allowed to go back to her home on Darwin Rd. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Another resident was anxious about her four children, aged 5-15. She had driven into town on a work errand then couldn't get home.

She had only moved to Darwin Rd with her family on Saturday and did not yet have phone or internet connected.

"I am worried. We've just moved in and I've got no way of contacting them," she said.

When she arrived at the cordon she saw two police officers escorting a man with his hands up towards a patrol car. He didn't resist.

Sergeant Haydn Korach, of Kerikeri police, said a 24-year-old Kerikeri man had been arrested and released after a formal warning. He had paid for the stolen petrol.

Inquiries were continuing to find the other man, a 31-year-old from Kaikohe. He was known to police and wanted to arrest for failing to appear in court in April.

No firearm had been recovered but residents in the area had no reason to be concerned. If they did see any suspicious activity, however, they should call 111.