A newborn baby was taken to hospital after a head-on crash.

The baby and its parents were travelling south on Kawhia Rd at Tihiroa, west of Te Awamutu, Waikato, when the cars collided on a sharp bend about 4.15pm yesterday.

Firefighters had to winch the couple's car off a road barrier and wedge the passenger door open to free her.

The Herald was initially told by emergency service workers who attended the crash yesterday that the mother was still pregnant and appeared to be having contractions, but it now appears she had recently given birth.


It is understood the family were taken to Waikato Hospital, as was a passenger in the other car.

Otorohanga Fire Brigade chief fire officer Neville King said it appeared speed and wet weather might have contributed to the crash.

Neighbours said the two 55km/h corners in quick succession, just south of Tihiroa Hall, were often the scene of accidents.

Late last night, a search was under way at Marks Bay, east of Bluff and south of the Catlins Forest Park, to find a motorcyclist who had driven over a bank on private land. He has since died. Police, fire crews and a rescue helicopter were involved.

Yesterday, a crash 5km north of Taumarunui on State Highway 4 took the holiday road toll to three. A 58-year-old man from Taumarunui was killed in the single-vehicle accident shortly after 1pm.

Earlier, a man died following a car crash east of the Lorneville-Dacre Highway, north of Invercargill.

Senior Sergeant Dave Raynes said the 24-year-old was found dead at the scene about 6.30am. He was the only occupant of a Honda saloon.

A 71-year-old woman became the first holiday-period fatality after a crash in Hamilton on Christmas Day.

She was a rear-seat passenger in a car that was in collision with a ute at the intersection of Te Rapa Rd and Avalon Drive about 12.35pm.

Four of her family members were taken to Waikato Hospital.

Police later located a suspended driver who allegedly had fled the crash site - a member of the public followed the fleeing car and helped officers track its 26-year-old female driver to a Pukete address.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Marcus Lynam said it was too early to determine fault or say whether charges would be laid over the collision.

Earlier, on Christmas Day morning, a 16-year-old was critically injured when the car she was in rolled down a bank on a rural road south of Carterton. A 17-year-old suffered moderate injuries in the crash.

Yesterday, heavy lifting cranes were brought in after a car and a milk tanker collided near Marton.

The accident happened about 3am, blocking State Highway 3.

The collision sent the tanker into a ditch. The car's driver suffered serious leg injuries and had to be cut out by fire crews.

Motorists in the lower North Island were urged to be patient following reports of heavy traffic on State Highway 1 yesterday.

Police shift commander Sergeant Andy Dow said the congestion appeared to be linked to Boxing Day events and nice weather. He urged motorists to drive to the conditions.

The official holiday road toll began at 4pm on Christmas Eve and finishes at 6am on January 3.

Last year, 19 people died and 381 were injured in crashes during the period.