A police officer who was arresting a person in New Plymouth this afternoon turned around to find their car had been nicked.

A person has now been arrested over the car theft, which happened in Spotswood, New Plymouth at around 4.30pm, a police spokeswoman said.

"The incident happened while an officer was in the process of arresting a person. While the officer was occupied a different person has stolen the police car," the spokeswoman said.

The car was recovered within 10 minutes thanks to help from a member of the public, she said.

There were no firearms or any other police tactical equipment in the police car when it was taken, the spokeswoman said.

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"One person has been arrested in relation to this matter on an outstanding warrant and charges are likely in regard to the theft of the police car."

In October a police car with a firearm inside was stolen in the Bay of Plenty, reportedly by a person who was handcuffed in the back of the car at the time.

The person alleged to have taken the car, 18-year-old Maaki Emery, evaded police for three weeks before being arrested.

Emery appeared in court on Monday facing five charges, including three related to the car being taken.