A gunman caused major disruption in Northland today after he shot at two police officers, stole their vehicle, carjacked another and slipped through a police cordon.

A large scale police operation involving the Armed Offenders Squad, dog handlers and officers from four police districts was launched after a man opened fire on two unarmed officers following a pursuit in Whangarei around 12.43am. The man then stole their vehicle, carjacked another and fled south to Maungaturoto.

Maungaturoto was in lockdown and cordons were put in place after the vehicle was found abandoned on Bickerstaffe Rd. The cordons were later removed after the man was spotted in Kaiwaka.

As of 5pm this afternoon an extensive search was still underway and police said they were now looking for him in the greater Auckland area.

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It is the second manhunt in the space of two days in the region and comes after armed police searched for Mark Andrew Fletcher who fled into rural bush and farmland in Whakapara on Thursday.

Four daycare centres and preschools in Kaiwaka closed for the day. Just one school, Otamatea High, decided against opening. While all primary schools opened, a number of parents in Maungaturoto kept their children home fearing for their safety.

Police vehicles in Kaiwaka behind the Three Furlongs Bar and Grill. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Police vehicles in Kaiwaka behind the Three Furlongs Bar and Grill. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Resident Janine Boult said the library and several other businesses run by volunteers were also affected.

"I run our local drop in centre and we've decided we will stay closed until we know more, just to encourage people not to come out.

"There's a lot of talk on the local Facebook pages. Although we have laughed at the description because it covers half the men in town."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police were doing everything to locate the man. Staff from Northland, Waitemata, Auckland City and Counties Manukau districts were involved.

"As always in events of this nature, our objective is to ensure the safety of the public and our staff and resolve this situation without anyone getting hurt."

He said police were also supporting the two staff members who were shot at by the wanted man.

At least 10 police vehicles had set up at a point behind Kaiwaka's Three Furlongs Bar and Grill while other vehicles searched the area.

Mangawhai locals said armed police were also at the seaside settlement and checkpoints had been set up at roads in and out of the cove with cars being searched.

Kaiwaka resident Pam Ottaway said police were checking houses in the area yesterday morning.

"They came here at 8am and were walking up the roads checking houses and asking questions, like if we'd seen any suspicious behaviour," she said

The wanted man's identity was not yet known, however, he was described as possibly in his late 30s, up to 6ft tall with brown curly hair. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with white writing and a brown zip-up hoodie.

Police were asking members of the public to call 111 immediately if they observe any suspicious behaviour or anybody fitting the description.