A driver fleeing police at high speed yesterday left a Dannevirke woman distressed and in tears after a near-miss.

"I was so close to being killed," Phillipa Ellis said.

"I thought it was curtains."

Mrs Ellis, principal of Norsewood and Districts School, said she was nearly written off in Woodville as the driver tried to outrun police.


"It was terrifying, awful. I had to pull into a layby and have a cry," she said.

She had just come into the 50km/h area in Woodville and was slowing for a man walking out onto the road.

"The next minute this car came, going like a bat out of hell - I thought it was all over for me."

Mr Ellis said she estimated the car was travelling at about 140km/h and other witnesses also described how they'd seen the driver of the car "going for it in Woodville".

The incident began following a driving complaint to police on State Highway 2 south of Pahiatua, Senior Sergeant Nathan Davis of the Tararua police said.

"Our Pahiatua senior sergeant had gone to the location but the vehicle sped off. The car then travelled through Pahiatua and into Woodville where police tried to stop it.

"A pursuit then took place from Woodville to Dannevirke."

On State Highway 1 at Makirikiri, south of Dannevirke, Constable Brett Wakelin of Norsewood police prepared to put out road spikes.

Minutes later, five police cars followed the fleeing Toyota driver.

"We didn't deploy the spikes in the interests of road safety," Mr Davis said.

"The driver was going at a speed to try and avoid us."

People watching the speeding car believed it was travelling at close to 140km/h on the outskirts of Dannevirke.

"Luckily the speed the driver was going didn't result in a terrible accident," Mr Davis said. "Why do this? For what?

"The risk these fleeing drivers put themselves and others in is mad.

"They put everyone else at risk."

The car went through Dannevirke's High St and was then abandoned at the AMP WaiSplash pools on York St.

"Police swooped on our street around noon and they were all over the show," York St resident Gloria Malcolmson said.

"We saw the police going through the boot of the car."

The driver had scarpered. Mr Davis said: "He ditched the vehicle and just disappeared, which suggests to me he may have some ties to Dannevirke."

However, Mr Davis said it was purely speculation that the fleeing driver was Hemi Smith, whom Blenheim police had been searching for in regard to assault and breaching bail.

"We know the name of the registered driver of the vehicle and he doesn't live in Tararua."