When Tony Atkinson heard a loud bang from the back of his van as he was driving home on Thursday, he assumed he'd had a blowout. But when he pulled over he discovered not a flat tyre but a hole punched through his rear window — and realised with a shock that he'd been shot at.
The incident occurred at about 5.30pm, on Puketi Rd, an unsealed road skirting Puketi Forest about 20km west of Kerikeri.
Mr Atkinson, a carpet-layer from Awanui, said there was "no way" a stone could have been flicked up through the back window, and later he found the pellet to prove it.
It must have been a high-powered slug gun to penetrate thick glass and a layer of tint and still travel some distance inside his van, he said.
"I got a hell of a fright at first. But it was more disbelief that someone would go to that extent," Mr Atkinson added.
"What if it was someone else, like a little old lady in a little Suzuki, or a tourist? Or what if they'd shot head on? Anything could have happened. It was just lucky it was me in a big van."
There were no other vehicles around, and no people or houses to be seen, though there were a number of driveways in the area.
"I think it's just bored kids, taking out a slug gun and telling their parents they're going hunting," he said.
If that turned out to be the case, he urged parents to keep tabs on where their children were and what they were up to.
He had notified the police, who were taking the incident seriously. They planned to visit him, to photograph the van and take away the pellet.
Mr Atkinson's partner, Jordan Daniel, shared photos of the shot-out window on a Northland Facebook page to warn others to be vigilant.
She was later contacted by a woman who said her son-in-law had also been shot at on Puketi Rd, just before Christmas.
The pellet had shattered the car's rear left window and lodged in a child's car seat at head height. No children were in the car at the time.
That incident was not reported to police at the time.