Police have acknowledged the heroic actions of witnesses who helped after a fatal two-car crash near Paparoa yesterday afternoon.

One person died at the scene, and two were flown to hospital with serious and moderate injuries.

Senior Sergeant Josh Fagan acknowledged the "heroic actions" of those people who were first on the scene and tried to put out the fire that engulfed the vehicle and to pull the people out of the car.

"We understand that this was terrible situation to deal with and anyone who wishes to speak to someone in confidence about this ordeal can contact Whangarei Police," he said.

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One person died at the scene, while two others were airlifted to hospital with serious and moderate injuries. Photo / Jason Oxenham
One person died at the scene, while two others were airlifted to hospital with serious and moderate injuries. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The crash happened on State Highway 12 about 2.15pm and closed the road until 7.30pm.

Fagan said police were are investigating the crash and contacting next of kin.

"We will be undergoing a formal identification process for the deceased and will release their details once this has been completed and we have advised next of kin," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Whangarei Hospital said the two injured victims were in a stable condition last night.

The crash was one of three on New Zealand roads in 36 hours that claimed four lives, bringing this year's road death toll to 91.