One person is dead and several have been trapped in a three-car crash on State Highway 1 near Oakleigh in Northland.

Police were called about 4.50pm to the crash, which happened on the bridge between Mangapai Rd and Springfield Rd, just south of Whangārei.

One person had died, another had serious injuries and a third had moderate injuries, police said in a statement.

Diversions were in place as the road was expected to be closed for some time. Motorists were advised to avoid the area.

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The Serious Crash Unit would be examining the scene, the statement said.

Fire and Emergency NZ shift manager Scott Osmund confirmed one person had died, while people were trapped in at least two of the vehicles. Four fire appliances from Whangārei, Portland and Ruakaka were at the scene.

All but one of those trapped had been extricated from their vehicles by about 5.30pm.

Osmund said the crash site was about 200m south of Mangapai Rd.

"It's a fairly popular area for crashes like this," he said.

The crash prompted a tweet from Kaipara mayor Jason Smith, who called the road the "most dangerous highway".

"This wretched part of the State Highway network claims another life and wrecks more," he said.

"Leaders of the north want this to be 4 lane road to keep people safe."

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An employee at the local petrol station said the crash had happened further up the road, by the bridge.

Traffic was moving but very slowly, he said.