A police pursuit in Northland involving a van which ended with a splash into a river could have easily been an episode out of American television series The Dukes of Hazzard.

The van was driven on its rims on back roads before it was driven off a boat ramp and all six people inside were forced to swim to evade police. Some were better in the water than others, with one needing to be rescued.

The drama began when a Toyota LiteAce van was spotted driving on Church St in Kaitaia without its headlights on about 8pm on Monday.

Kaitaia police Senior Sergeant Geoff Ryan said the driver of the van failed to stop for police and fled, continuing to drive for the 30 minutes along windy, back roads towards Taipa.

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Mr Ryan said during the pursuit items were being flung out the vehicle.

The van was spiked on Oruru Rd but continued on its rims until it reached Taipa, where it was driven down the Taipa boat ramp into the Taipa River.

"The six occupants immediately got out of the van while in the river and started swimming," Mr Ryan said.

Four occupants were nabbed, including one who was rescued after getting into difficulty in the water. Two other proved to be better swimmers and were able to flee.

However, freedom was brief and officers found them later at a residential property.

Police were speaking to all involved yesterday but no charges had been laid by edition time.