One person is dead and two critical after a two-car crash near Tirau tonight.

The crash happened on State Highway 1 between Horahora Rd and Paparamu Rd at around 6.15pm.

Earlier police said people were trapped in the cars, but it was unclear how many were involved or the extent of their injuries.

Both lanes are blocked and diversions in place, police said. It is expected the road will be closed for some time.

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The serious crash unit is investigating.