One person has died while another is being airlifted to hospital after a two-car crash on State Highway 3, Awakino.

Police were this afternoon urging motorists to avoid the area - north of New Plymouth and south of Piopio - as the police serious crash unit investigates.

But the stretch of highway has since reopened.

Emergency services were called to the scene - about 5km north of the Awakino Tunnel - at 1.15pm.

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Northern fire communications shift manager Megan Ruru said one person died while the other person was airlifted by rescue helicopter to hospital in a serious condition.

It is understood the person was flown to Taranaki Base Hospital, but a condition update was not immediately available tonight.

As well as Piopio firefighters, police, St John Ambulance and a doctor were at the scene.