The awful moment a delivery man was repeatedly stabbed has been described by his horrified boss who ran to try to save him.

"I saw the guy with a hand on (the delivery man's) shoulder. He had a grip and he was doing a stabbing action.

"He's got a hold of him and then he's stabbing. (The delivery man) was down on one knee and just collapsed, leaning on his hands on the ground."

The victim's boss saw it all happen in the blink of an eye - just after 3am this morning next door to the Gull service station on East Tamaki Rd close to the Otara town centre.

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He had turned up to supervise the distribution of the Herald to delivery staff.

The staff member who was attacked had been working as a delivery driver for about three months and had arrived early at the place the newspapers are dropped off.

His manager arrived shortly after and all seemed peaceful as the delivery truck arrived.

But in the few seconds it took for the truck to do a U-turn, his staff member was attacked.

As the truck turned and parked, it revealed a scuffle in the area between the service station and the pub next door.

At first, he didn't realise how serious it was but could see two men in hoodies and bandannas accosting his staff member.

Springing to action, he got out of his car and grabbed the nearest weapon at hand - a plastic petrol station watering can.

"Empty or full, I didn't really care. I was heading there 100 miles-an-hour, going in guns blazing."

The assailants took off - at which point he realised one of the pair was carrying what appeared to be a rifle.

Rather than give chase, he went to help his staff member. "I wasn't chasing them when they had a rifle. I didn't realise they had weapons but it didn't bother me because it was one of my work mates."

His staff member, collapsed to the ground, "couldn't say a word". "I think he was in shock."

Looking for help, he saw the neighbouring petrol station worker with his face to the glass watching events unfold.

"Call the cops and call a bloody ambulance," he said. By then, other delivery staff had arrived.

Placing his staff member in the recovery position, he saw the man's shirt had lifted exposing one of four stab wounds.

Waiting for help to arrive, they saw a police car driving past and flagged it down. Shortly after, an ambulance arrived.

"Once they turned up, I turned back to my work. The Herald's still got to get delivered."

The Herald's East Tamaki franchisee Farhad Umrigar waited at Middlemore Hospital until mid-afternoon to meet the delivery driver after surgery and said the man was in a stable condition.

He said the man had suffered multiple stab wounds to his back and hands.

"It seems they wanted to steal his car. They smashed his head with a brick or concrete block to try and knock him out. They didn't succeed so pounced on him."