A witness to an extraordinary gang clash on the streets of Whakatane has described hearing the "pop, pop, pop" of gunfire and frightened motorists desperately running for their lives.

Innocent bystanders from local businesses were also fortunate to escape without serious injury from the indiscriminate shooting, with the front wall of one building company riddled with bullet holes.

A man from one business, who subsequently didn't want to be named, told the Herald he and his colleagues "were enjoying smoko" around 2.15pm yesterday when they saw members of the Outback Blacks gang - a sub-chapter of Black Power - hiding in trees alongside Valley Rd.

They were lying in wait to ambush the funeral procession for Mongrel Mob member Tahu Kingi, more than 100 cars travelling from Kawerau to the crematorium in Whakatane.

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"Then all hell broke loose," the witness said.

A car driven by the Outback Blacks rammed a vehicle in the funeral procession and the Mongrel Mob retaliated with gunshots, he said.

The Black Power car fled into a lane parallel to Valley Rd with the Mongrel Mob in pursuit. More shots were fired and one of the gang cars crashed into parked vehicles.

Police were today examining the bullet holes in the front wall of HBL Builders and photographing the damaged cars.

Police examine bullet holes in the side of the HBL Builders premises. Photo / George Novak.
Police examine bullet holes in the side of the HBL Builders premises. Photo / George Novak.
Bullet holes in the side of the HBL Builders premises in Whakatane. Photo / George Novak.
Bullet holes in the side of the HBL Builders premises in Whakatane. Photo / George Novak.
One of the cars damaged during the gang shooting in Whakatane. Photo / George Novak.
One of the cars damaged during the gang shooting in Whakatane. Photo / George Novak.

A staff member at HBL said no one from the company would be speaking about their narrow escape.

The man recalled hearing four shots.

"We just heard pop, pop, pop, pop. We ran inside, locked the doors and lay on the ground," he said.

"Members of the public, people who were driving their cars, were running in from the road and banging on the door to let them in."

Police were eventually able to separate the warring groups and shepherd the Mongrel Mob procession to the Hillcrest Crematorium, between Whakatane and Ohope.

To stop the conflict reigniting after the cremation ceremony, police blocked the road back into Whakatane and forced the Mongrel Mob to drive back to Kawerau by another route.

Senior Sergeant Richard Miller, the acting area commander for the Eastern Bay of Plenty, told the Herald there was zero tolerance for the dangerous behaviour and the investigation was ongoing.

He was confident the public was safe and tension between the gangs would not escalate further, but even he was surprised at the intensity of the conflict yesterday.

"I've been here 20 years and I've never seen anything like it. But I'm confident it's a one-off, it's business as usual out there today."

Senior Sergeant Richard Miller is confident Whakatane is safe but urges witnesses to speak up. Photo / George Novak.
Senior Sergeant Richard Miller is confident Whakatane is safe but urges witnesses to speak up. Photo / George Novak.

Yesterday's conflict was triggered by an attack on Friday night, said Miller.

Members of the Kawerau Mongrel Mob were at the Gateway Funeral home on Awatapu Drive, which the Outback Blacks consider to be their territory.

A lone member of the Outback Blacks challenged the Mongrel Mob at the funeral, who in turn reportedly tried to run him over.

Whether he was struck is unclear, but the Outback Black member returned with reinforcements and retaliated by ramming the car carrying the casket of Tahu Kingi.

There were unconfirmed reports the casket fell onto the road, said Miller.

He explained the Outback Blacks were a separate faction to three other chapters under the Black Power umbrella in Whakatane.

The other three chapters had given their blessing to the Mongrel Mob funeral, said Miller.

A 21-year-old man affiliated to the Outback Blacks has been charged with possession of an offensive weapon, but Miller urged anyone who saw or filmed the shooting to speak with the police.

More than 100 vehicles carrying Mongrel Mob members were in a motorcade travelling from Kawerau to Whakatane. Photo / Whakatane Beacon
More than 100 vehicles carrying Mongrel Mob members were in a motorcade travelling from Kawerau to Whakatane. Photo / Whakatane Beacon

Shocking footage of the moment shots were fired have been posted on Facebook.

The Mongrel Mob gang member taking the video during a funeral procession can be heard yelling: "Who's got a gun? Shoot back", after two shots were fired.

The video shows dozens of patched mob members walking up a street before two shots ring out.

The members begin moving back quickly including the video taker who takes cover behind an idling vehicle yelling: "F***, who's got a gun man, gis [sic] a gun. Give me a turn".

The confrontation in the eastern Bay of Plenty comes nearly two months after a Tribesmen gang member was deliberately knocked off his motorcycle in nearby Te Kaha.

Don Henry Turei Jnr had just left a family wedding in November when a van pushed the back tyre of his Harley Davidson, causing him to crash on State Highway 35 just east of Opotiki.

The van, described as a "white Honda Odyssey-type", was found as a burnt out wreck.

Police are treating the death as homicide; social media posts by family and friends of Turei refer to "muttz" and "dog s***", a clear reference to the rival Mongrel Mob gang whom they believe to be responsible.