A man has been arrested following a police pursuit and a five-hour armed stand-off after two foreign tourists were violently attacked on the West Coast yesterday.

The women were found on the side of the road at Franz Josef with serious injuries about 4pm.

They had been hitchhiking and were picked up at Whataroa by a man driving a blue Nissan Terrano earlier in the afternoon, Tasman District Commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said.

Police were yet to establish what happened but one of the women suffered pelvic injuries and the other had three knife wounds to the neck.


Following the attack, road blocks were put in place on State Highway 6 and helicopter and a plane were send to try to locate the vehicle.

It was found south of Fox Glacier shortly before 8.30pm by a police patrol.

It failed to stop and a pursuit began. The fleeing driver encountered another road block at Paringa before turning north again.

Another road block at Karangarua River, 25km south of Fox Glacier, stopped the vehicle about 9.50pm.

Armed police surrounded the vehicle and began negotiating with the man. Armed Offenders Squad members from Tasman District, Dunedin and Christchurch were also flown to the area by helicopter to assist.

The standoff lasted more than five hours before the man was overpowered about 3am and taken into custody.

A 38-year-old man is being interviewed by police in Greymouth.

A 28-year-old German woman and a 27-year-old Japanese-Dutch woman are recovering at Grey Base Hospital where their conditions were described as stable.

They had spoken to police.

Police were grateful for the assistance they received from members of the public during the incident, which provided information on sightings of the vehicle, Mr Chambers said.

"It's been a long night for everyone involved, but the police staff who responded did a very professional job and as a result we had matter resolved as quickly as possible."

Westland Mayor Mike Havill said said the community was appalled at the brutality of the attack.

The community had rallied to help the tourists, he told Radio New Zealand.

"They were attended to and made comfortable while their injuries were attended to."

He understood it was a tip-off from one member of the community that resulted in the alleged offender being found by police.

Despite the attack, Mr Havill said the area was a safe place.

"It's the actions of one individual that has compromised that and as a community we've just got stand up and not tolerate this kind of brutality.

"There's only one road in and one road out of south Westland and people feel very safe on it."