In less than five hours on Saturday Whangārei police were called to a fatal vehicle crash, the drowning of a man paddling off the coast and an aggravated robbery of a service station.

A van and a four-wheel drive collided head on in wet conditions on the brow of a hill on Whareora Rd about 3pm.

Serious crash investigator Senior Constable Warren Bunn said, following the impact, the two vehicles separated but the 58-year-old driver of the van died at the scene.

The driver, and sole occupant, of the Jeep Cherokee had to be cut free by firefighters and was taken to Whangārei Hospital in serious condition.


The death brings Northland's road toll to 23 following a fatality free month in July.

As police cleared the road a call for help on the Tutukaka Coast was made about 5pm after a local man struck trouble.

Senior Sergeant Daniel Cleaver said the paddler on a surfski had been equipped with safety gear including a lifejacket and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency.

However, he had been in the water for at least half an hour before a Coastguard crew based out of Tutukaka was able to reach him.

Police said the paddler was seen struggling in the water and raised a distress flag just south of what locals knew as North Gable.

People living on the coast raised the alarm and coastguard deployed.

CPR was carried out, but the man, aged in his 50s, died at the scene.

Iwi have placed a Rahui from Matapouri to Tutukaka, which will remain in place for a week.

Police were then alerted to a robbery where a gun was pointed at service station workers and cash and cigarettes were stolen.

Police said a man went into the GAS Service Station on SH1, Ruakākā, and presented a firearm.

He demanded cash and cigarettes from the attendants.

The male was heavily disguised and carried a black back pack which he used to store the stolen items.

He was seen running to a vehicle parked at the northern end of the service station and drove off towards Whangarei.

Police are now appealing to any witnesses who could help police with their investigation.

Anyone with information can contact Detective Sergeant Aaron Crawford at Whangārei Police on 09 430 4500.

Information can also be given anonymously on Crimestoppers, 0800 555 111.