One person has been killed and another is critically injured after a four car crash north of Dunedin.

St John communications centre manager Andy Gray said one person was dead.

Four others were taken to Dunedin Hospital with serious injuries.

State Highway 1 is closed between Church Rd and Coast Rd. Diversions are in place.

Police are asking people to avoid any non-essential travel in the area.

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Motorists are also asked to be patient and to take extra care as traffic levels build in the area.

The crash happened near Hawkesbury Village, near Karitane, at 5.56pm this evening, he said.

Traffic is backed up to the north and south of the crash near the intersection of Apes Rd and State Highway 1, about 30km north of Dunedin.

It appeared at least one car was down a bank.

Two helicopters were at the scene just before 6.30pm.

Motorists have been warned to expect delays of up to 25 minutes, and diversions are in place.