People in the quiet seaside town of Opunake always wondered how a "lovely, kind and beautiful woman" could be with a man who would threaten her life twice in the space of a few months.

Anthony Roydon Ratahi, 46, from Stratford, was shot dead by police about 10.20am on Saturday. He had been holding ex-partner Marcelle Beer, 30, hostage at the Headlands Hotel in Opunake, 65km south of New Plymouth.

On Friday night, armed with a gun, Ratahi walked into the Headlands Hotel where he ordered staff and patrons out before he barricaded himself and Ms Beer inside. She works there as a waitress. Twelve hours later he emerged with a knife before going back into the foyer where he was killed by a single police gunshot.

Ratahi was released from jail nine days earlier after serving eight weeks of a six-month sentence for domestic violence against Ms Beer. It is understood Ratahi had held a knife to her throat.

An Opunake man, who knew Ratahi and Ms Beer as a couple, said the last time he saw so many police in Opunake was during a May callout for the armed offenders squad - also involving the couple.

"People didn't quite get it when [Ratahi] showed up and they started going out together," he said. "She is a lovely, kind and beautiful woman and this happens, twice."

The man said he knew Ratahi when he lived in Stratford and played league against him. He said he was "usually okay" but on one occasion "tried to staunch his neighbour out".

Yesterday, dozens of Ratahi's whanau waited outside the crime scene for the police to release his body. Some had been waiting there since Saturday morning shortly after news broke that he had been shot. A karakia was said late in the afternoon, shortly before an undertaker arrived.

One of Ratahi's cousins, who called himself David, said the family were upset by reports that his cousin had a methamphetamine problem - although another relative said "you should wait for the toxicology report".

"He loved her and this is what this whole thing was about, he just couldn't handle that love being unrequited," he said.

David said the Ratahi family wanted to apologise to Ms Beer's family. He said Ratahi had three daughters who were devastated by what had happened. His tangi is likely to be held at Oeo Marae when police release his body.

Area commander Pat Handcock said 30 police had been called in to help with the investigation. He said the firearm had still not been recovered.

Mr Handcock said police were aware of Ratahi's release date from prison and that he posed a "very, very high risk to the victim" and although he would not reveal what safety measures were put in place to minimise further harm against Ms Beer, "a great deal of work had been done".

Investigations have begun, one focusing on Ratahi's actions before he was killed, another on police and the actual shooting, and a third on whether police procedures were followed throughout the siege.