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Police Minister Judith Collins is "extremely shocked and concerned" over the shooting of three police in Napier this morning.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad had contacted Ms Collins this morning to tell her police officers had been shot.

She could not earlier confirm reports that one officer was dead, however it has since been confirmed at a police press conference this afternoon that Senior Constable Len Snee of Taradale has been killed.

Two other officers, Constable Bruce Miller and Constable Grant Diver are both in a serious condition in Hawke's Bay regional hospital.

Ms Collins, who is in Queenstown at a police blue light conference, told NZPA the mood was sombre.

"I am extremely shocked and concerned. I'll be cancelling all my appointments tomorrow and moving straight to Napier to be with our police and their families," she said.

"I'm not going today...because police are dealing with an extraordinarily difficult situation right now and I want to make sure that they are focused on that, not worrying about their minister getting in the way."

Senior Constable Snee's death was the third of a police officer since last July.

Porirua police officer Sergeant Derek Wootton, 52, died after he was hit by a stolen car as he laid road spikes to stop it on July 11 and Sergeant Don Wilkinson was shot in Mangere East, south Auckland, on September 11.

Mr Wilkinson was planting a tracking device on a vehicle outside a suspected illegal drugs lab.

Ms Collins said she believed the public had high respect for the police, who were among the best in the world.

"I think there is, however, an element in New Zealand, in our society, that respects no one," she said.

"Unfortunately, the police have to deal with those people all the time."

Policing was a dangerous job and officers took their lives in the hands every day.

They never knew how someone would react in a certain situation, and that was an unknown they and their families had to live with.

"There is always someone ready to criticise the police when they take precautions for their own safety and the safety of others," Ms Collins said.

"Unfortunately, they get criticised by people who have never been in life-threatening situations."