Residents of a Rotorua street have been locked out of their homes for more than three hours as armed police surrounded a house looking for a man with links to a gang.
Members of the Rotorua police Armed Offenders Squad swooped on the McIntyre Ave house about 12.30pm today, affecting about 20 homes inside the cordoned off area between Ward Ave and McKee Ave.
Police told the Rotorua Daily Post they had a search warrant but needed help from the squad given growing gang tensions in recent weeks.
Detective Sergeant Garry Hawkins of the Rotorua CIB couldn't comment about what was found inside the house. No arrests had yet been made.
"Given the gang tensions we took precautions to carry out this search warrant. We wanted to make sure no one else was in the house. Safety is paramount to our staff and members of the public with these heightened gang tensions."
A Rotorua girl celebrating her birthday was among the people waiting at the cordons.
The girl, who turned 7 today, couldn't wait to get home to unwrap her presents so ripped the wrapping off while waiting in her car.
The Glenholme School pupil was too excited about her new nail-care kit, bubble bath and body lotion to be too worried about the police activity, although she said she couldn't wait to tell her classmates tomorrow about the excitement in her street.
"I'll tell them that when I got home there was police down the street just to make sure no one will get hurt," the young girl said.
The girl's mother said she had been waiting outside the cordon since 12.30pm and had planned to bake her daughter a birthday cake so it was ready when she got home from school.
The woman, who had only moved to the area month ago, said she passed the time waiting at the cordon by going for walks around the neighbourhood and had contemplated having a little sleep on a three-legged chair she found under a tree.
She said they heard the sound of six shots, which she assumed was tear gas, about 2.30pm before seeing the Armed Offenders Squad move in.
A resident who lives near the cordon made the woman a cup of coffee while she waited.
"It's really comforting to know there are good people who live in the street."
A man also waiting at the cordon said his partner was stuck inside their house and was unable to go to work. She had been told she was unable to leave given the potential safety risk.
Another woman at the cordon said she had not been allowed back to her house, despite having a 7-month-old baby who needed nappies.
"One of the koros on the street let us go inside their house and wait which was really nice."
St John Ambulance and the Rotorua Fire Brigade were on standby at the scene during the callout.
When the cordons came down at 3.30pm, a team of police dressed in white boiler suits entered the house along with uniformed police staff and detectives.