An experienced pilot has died in a helicopter crash in Wanganui today.

Peter William Robb, 56, died at the scene of the crash in Brunswick, northwest of Wanganui, shortly before 9.30am. He was the only person in the chopper, which was carrying out agricultural spraying.

Whanganui Police Senior Sergeant Paul Baskett said police were supporting Mr Robb's family.

"Later today we will hand the site over to the Civil Aviation Authority to begin their scene examination."


"We will also be providing them with the information we have collected from our initial inquiries as they begin the investigation to determine the cause of the crash," Mr Baskett said.

Police have referred the incident to the coroner.

John Sinclair, executive officer of the New Zealand Helicopter Association, said Mr Robb was a "very experienced pilot, well-respected in the industry".

The chopper had been spraying farmland in the remote rural area, close to State Highway 3 at Kai Iwi, police said. It came down on Koatanui Rd, in steep hill country.

The Fire Service has been clearing fuel spilled across the road and investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were expected to arrive by mid-afternoon. The accident scene has been cordoned off. A spokesman said it was too early to comment on how the crash might have happened.

Residents heard the helicopter working in the area this morning.

Wanganui Chronicle reporter Zaryd Wilson said the crashed helicopter was "still relatively intact''.

Weather in the area was fine. "It's a great day, no wind. It was really foggy earlier this morning, but it would have lifted by [the time of the crash]."

The helicopter was a Hughes 500E model, a light utility chopper, which can hold up to five people, and is 9.4m long.

Mr Robb was a keen motorsport enthusiast and raced V8 utes for nearly a decade.

In April, he won his first UDC V8 utes race at the ITM 500, a support event to the V8 Supercars at Pukekohe.

In 2012, Mr Robb also he raced at Mt Panorama ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bathurst.

- additional reporting Zaryd Wilson of the Wanganui Chronicle