A woman waiting in a car while her husband paid for petrol at a central Whangarei service station had to fight off a man who got in the driver's seat and tried to drive away.

The attempted carjacking, at BP Wylies, on Maunu Rd, about 2pm on Monday, has left the 32-year-old shaken and questioning her positive impression of Whangarei. She also issued a warning for people to lock their cars at petrol stations even if there was someone in it - a warning echoed by police.

The woman and her husband did not call the police as they thought staff at the service station were going to contact them and hand over security camera footage.

The gravity of the incident was still sinking in yesterday as the woman, who did not want to be identified, recounted the events. The couple had been on their way to Auckland and had stopped to fill up with petrol.


"I was in the car and playing with my phone as my husband went in to pay for the fuel," she said.

"Suddenly I noticed someone opening the door in a really rude way and I asked them was was wrong. I realised he was a total stranger."

The man, she described as Maori and wearing a red jacket with the hood pulled around his head, forced his way into the driver's seat and began searching for the keys in the ignition.

"It all happened very quickly and he had his bum in the seat and tried to shut the door. I was yelling at him and trying to kick him."

She said the man may not have realised she was in the car. He ran off over Maunu Rd and down a side street.

"I feel horrified I would not expect this in the middle of the day in Whangarei. Honestly before this I thought I was pretty safe in Whangarei, but I couldn't sleep last night after this. Most of the time we lock the car if we are paying for fuel. This time we thought it would be ok with me still in the car. I'm just wondering what would have happened if there was a child in the car."

A manager at the BP station was not able to confirm if the incident had been reported to police and declined to comment further.