A cyclist's death in a "gut-wrenching'' crash in south Canterbury last night has dashed hopes for a fatality-free Easter.
The 55-year-old man died after a vehicle and bicycle collided at an intersection in Milford, north of Timaru, just two hours into the holiday road toll period.
The crash has been described as "the worst nightmare'' by police, who were hoping for a repeat of last Easter's record-breaking run without a single fatality - the first time since records began 57 years ago.
Emergency services were called to the crash at the intersection of Milford-Clandeboye Rd and Bain Rd near Temuka, about 18km north of Timaru, about 6pm.
Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin confirmed the cyclist was a Temuka man but police were not yet ready to release his name.
The police serious crash had completed a scene investigation and inquiries were continuing.
Mr Gaskin said the crash was "absolutely gut-wrenching''.
"It's just the worst nightmare that we just didn't expect. We put extra staff on the road, we've concentrated on the areas where there's a lot of traffic.''
However, the crash happened on a road seldom frequented by holiday traffic.
Mr Gaskin said it was mainly used by traffic travelling to and from Fonterra's Clandeboye dairy factory.
"This is just a real tragedy.''
The Clandeboye dairy factory is one of Fonterra's largest sites, processing about 40 per cent of the milk it collects from the South Island.
National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths yesterday called on drivers to help ensure the road toll this Easter stayed at zero.
"It would be outstanding if we were able to repeat last year's result this weekend and make history for a second time,'' he said.
"Last Easter we showed that we all can make a very real difference by collectively watching our speed, wearing our seatbelts, not driving drunk and maintaining our concentration, particularly as more people travel away over the break.''
Mr Griffiths said police would be a highly visible presence in urban and rural areas throughout the country over Easter.
They would focus on enforcing the lowered 4km/h speed tolerance, which applies during all holiday periods, as well as targeting drunk and dangerous driving.
More than 560 people have been killed in Easter road crashes since 1956.