A New Year's Eve party in Kaitaia has become the centre of a homicide investigation after a man found badly injured nearby died in hospital today.

Northland police believe the 35-year-old was the victim of an unprovoked attack.

Police were alerted to the incident at about 11pm last night, when a passing patrol car was flagged down in Bonnett Rd and alerted to the man lying on the side of the road.

The victim was later transferred from Kaitaia Hospital to Whangarei Hospital's intensive care unit and placed on life support, but died this afternoon.

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Police said they were notifying family of the victim, as an investigation involving 15 police and specialist forensic staff got under way.

A scene examination was to be completed today, before a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death.

Inquiries were being made into a function in Bonnett Rd, where a number of people had gathered that night.

"This is a tragic start to the new year for a family," Detective Inspector Kevin Burke said.

"This appears to be an unprovoked attack which has resulted in this man's death."

Police were appealing for information from anyone who attended the party or earlier saw the victim, who at the time was wearing black shorts, a grey hooded sweat shirt and steel capped work boots.

People could contact police by phoning 09 408 6500 or passing on a message anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.