A 33-year-old man has been charged after an axe attack on another man outside the Z service station in Greymouth this morning.

Police area commander Inspector Mel Aitken said they were called to the Whall St garage after a report of an altercation between two men - one wielding an axe - at the rear of the building.

One of the men was struck with the blunt end of an axe. He was not seriously injured.

"It was very fortunate that it was the blunt end," Aitken said.

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Police tracked down the alleged assailant about an hour later, and charged him with assault with intent to injure. He will appear in the Greymouth District Court tomorrow.

The victim of the attack was interviewed at the Greymouth Police Station.

"He has received treatment for bruising and was very lucky to escape being seriously injured."

Police were unsure what prompted the attack or if the two men were known to each other.

"We are still in the process of interviewing both men," Aitken said about midday.

Officers spent an hour searching the town for both drivers - one in a white van and the other in a red ute.

The search was extended all over Greymouth, including Cobden and Blaketown, and because they had a good description of the vehicles they were located relatively quickly.

"We are treating this as a very serious attack. Any assault with a weapon, including an axe is very, very serious," Aitken said.

An eyewitness to the incident made a statement to police this morning and also posted on his Facebook page seeing "two guys going after each other with axes in the middle of the street".

Police have appealed to hear from anyone else who witnessed the attack.