Multiple arrests have been made after shots were fired at a Mongrel Mob funeral procession in Whakatane.
The body of Mongrel Mob member Tahu Kingi was being transported in a motorcade of about 100 vehicles carrying other Kawerau-based members of the gang from the town to the Whakatane Crematorium this afternoon.
Whakatane's resident gang, Black Power, was allegedly trying to prevent the Mongrel Mob from entering. The drama follows a road-rage incident on Friday when Kingi's coffin ended up on the road.
"We're gonna save the town from them," one of the Black Power members said at the Landing Road Bridge entrance to the town, where members of his gang and Crips members had congregated to block the road.
They then abandoned their position and moved to the bottom of the Gorge Rd roundabout, the main route to the crematorium.
The confrontation was apparently sparked by an altercation outside a funeral home in Whakatane on Friday, where Kingi's body was before it was taken back to Kawerau for the tangi.
Mongrel Mob members allegedly attacked and ran over a Black Power member who passed by.
A man, who did not want his identity revealed, said this afternoon senior Black Power members had told him the younger gang member's patch was stolen in the incident.
Also at the time, the coffin containing Kingi is said to have fallen on to the road during a collision with another vehicle.
While Friday's confrontation was not widely observed, today's spectacle has been very real to the public of Whakatane.
The motorcade was being escorted by 15 police officers as well as Armed Offenders Squad members from Tauranga and Rotorua.
At about 4.15pm shots were fired near the corner of Valley and Arawa Roads, police said.
Police have arrested several people and said inquiries are continuing.
Residents reported hearing multiple gunshots and a number of vehicles have been damaged.
Local shops closed their doors and people peeped out to the street watching what was happening.
A local woman said she saw youth crying out of fear.
"Black Power are extremely agitated.
"Our gangs haven't played up for a long time.
"All of Whakatane knows what's going on. It's mad."
She said gang members were starting to flood in to Whakatane from all over the country.
Police were preventing people other than mourners from entering the Hillcrest Crematorium.
Whakatane Beacon reporter Karla Akuhata said it was "incredibly tense" when the procession passed through the town.
Black Power members were "mouthing off" at their opponents and Mob members responded.
"On a few occasions Mongrel Mob members tried to get out of their cars to engage but police were quick to step in and prevent them," she said.
Police said it looks like the gangs are now leaving the cemetery. Police will continue to monitor the "fluid situation" and are hoping the procession back to Kawerau goes smoothly.
There were about 10 armed offender squad members and more than 20 police officers at the roundabout.
Other police officers were stationed in other strategic locations.
Traffic was stopped to give priority to the funeral cortège.
Police drafted out cars containing members of the public not associated with the funeral further up the road to speed up the cortège's progress through the roundabout at the bottom of Gorge Rd where the main confrontation took place.
There were "hundreds of spectators" at the roundabout to watch the action, Akuhata said.
Police were also seen to be involved in a pursuit of two vehicles down Te Tahi St shortly after the shots were heard.
A woman saw the gangs as she was driving back to Auckland from a holiday in Gisborne and said it looked like there were about 30 gang members.
"It looked to me like they were waiting for something to happen."
A police spokesman said police had received an assault complaint after Friday's incident on State Highway 1.
"The victim, a Waikato man, called police from his home to report that he had been attacked by the driver of a car following a traffic altercation."
The man told police he had been dragged from the car and "punched several times" by a patched Mongrel Mob member.
Fairfax Media reported the victim's wife said her husband was spat at, dragged from the car and punched in the face several times.
"It was done in front of my son. He's 10. He was dragged from the car while my son was yelling for him to stop," she said.