It's been revealed a man who tried to rob the Te Ngae Hardware and Lotto shop pointed a firearm at the shop owner before making a dangerous getaway at speed in a car.

The man went into the shop at the Te Ngae Shopping Centre at 3.15pm on Tuesday. Detective Senior Sergeant John Wilson said the man demanded money from the shop owner and pointed a firearm at him.

A short time later the man left empty handed. He was seen running behind the Te Ngae Shopping Centre near Plunket on Vaughan Rd. He then ran south down Vaughan Rd where it is believed he got into a parked vehicle near Puketawhero Park. The vehicle description is a black or dark grey sedan.

Mr Wilson said the car was seen speeding in the areas of Tennyson Drive and Lynmore. It was last seen on Tarawera Rd.

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The Te Ngae Hardware and Lotto shop owner, who didn't want to be named, told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday it was the first time anything like this had happened in his 35 years in the job.

"It's something you prepare yourself for but every situation is different."

He urged the public to help the police with any information.

"As long as it doesn't happen again to anyone else and we get the weapon out of the community and the person off the street.

"If anyone has information, they should ring the police and forward to the investigation team."

Mr Wilson said the incident was witnessed by a number of members of the public who followed the offender.

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"What is concerning is that someone has the audacity to attempt to rob a store in the middle of the day in a suburban area with a firearm. Rotorua has robberies periodically and it's a concern when it involves a firearm. That elevates things from our point of view."

Mr Wilson said the erratic and dangerous driving after the robbery was also concerning.

"This has been a distressing event for those involved."

The offender was described as wearing a grey hoodie, black pants and carrying a back pack.

Rotorua police would like to hear from anyone who witnessed what happened and saw the offender and the suspicious vehicle.

They are also interested in speaking to the driver of a truck the vehicle cut off on the intersection of Tennyson Drive and Te Ngae Rd about 3.30pm.

- Anyone with information is asked to contact Rotorua police on (07) 348 0099. Alternatively information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.