Police have come out empty handed from a search for a wanted man who barricaded himself in a Napier house.

Police confirmed at 1.03am that the target of their search was not found and all cordons and restrictions were lifted.

They thanked the public for their cooperation and patience over the incident where explosions were heard.

Police cordoned off roads around a property on Bristol St in Tamatea about 5.30pm as members of the armed offenders squad swarmed in.

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A woman staying at the nearby Fern Hotel on Westminster Ave said she heard "a rally of explosions" about 11.45pm.

At first she thought they were gunfire but later said it could have been tear gas.

A police spokesman was unaware of what had happened and said the incident was still unfolding.

A police spokeswoman earlier said there was a warrant out for the man's arrest.

It is understood he had been on the run from police for a week but police last night would not confirm the man's identity.

Last Friday, police said they were searching for Shawn Nicholas Harding who had a warrant for his arrest on driving-related offences.

They said Harding had a history of violent offending and should not be approached.

In 2005, he was jailed for seven years for stabbing his former partner in front of their two young children, and for a road rage attack in which he threatened a TV3 employee and then attacked their vehicle with an axe while he was in a drug-induced rage.

Nearby residents were in lockdown as armed police tried to negotiate with the man.

Kane Wyman, who lives next door to the property, was told by police to leave his house at 7.30pm.

About 10.30pm, police told him he couldn't return to his house tonight.

There was a "sound like gunfire" earlier in the evening, but the Police spokeswoman said there hadn't been any shots fired. Earlier reports of shots fired were incorrect, police said.

Residents reported tear gas canisters were fired, while Bristol St locals were evacuated and Westminster Ave cordoned off.

One family was left in the dark when six armed offenders squad members used their back yard to try and encourage the man out of a neighbouring property.

"There was no warning - they just flew up the driveway. Four other cars pulled up outside - it was freaky," said the woman, who did not wish to be named.

The woman was still inside her home with her husband and daughter with no lights on nearly five hours after the incident began.

"They apologised and said they weren't after us - they just wanted to use our fence-line."
Her daughter was at work in a local takeaways when the police first arrived about 5.30pm.

"I couldn't leave to get my daughter. It got later and later so I rang her. She told me the cops had just ordered 30 pizzas so I told her to get a ride back with them."

The woman said the armed offenders used loud hailers to try to encourage the man out of the neighbouring house, asking him to come out with his hands up.

"I suggested they use tear gas but they said they had procedures. Then it went quiet for quite a while before they started shooting tear gas. They're quite sure he's in there."

The woman said she felt "quite safe" and had offered the police water because she thought they might be getting dehydrated.

"It's hours into it now and I just want to get on with our night - I'm a bit over it now."

A St John spokesman said they had been asked by police to be on standby at a safe point near Bristol St.

In earlier reports, an elderly incident described the situation as "terrifying".

"It's quite scary. Our immediate neighbours were evacuated, the police said we need to stay inside, we're okay here."