A man has died after a police pursuit in Kawerau early this morning.

About 3.30am, police saw the vehicle travelling at high speed on River Rd, Bay of Plenty District Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said.

It was seen again about 3.37am, with its lights turned off.

"Police attempted to stop the vehicle, however it accelerated and failed to stop.


"A pursuit was initiated and a short time later the vehicle has lost control and crashed into a tree."

The male driver of the vehicle died at the scene.

Police were working to identify the man and notify his next of kin.

A Serious Crash Unit investigation and an internal police investigation have commenced.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has been notified.

Today's fatal crash brings the road death toll since January 1 to 140. At May 10 last year it was at 134.

In the past 12 months 384 people have died on New Zealand roads.

This morning's road death follows a chase on Monday this week where one man died in Taranaki, and near Nelson in March when three people were killed after a driver fled police.

An innocent member of the public, Carmen Marie Yanko, died when the fleeing driver crossed the centre line and crashed head-on into her car near Nelson.

Two men in the fleeing car were also killed: 25-year-old Johnathan Tairakena and 33-year-old Phillip Jamie Stretch.


Police have been criticised for their pursuit policy, as the public debates the need for high-speed police pursuits and calling on police to review their policy to prevent more needless deaths.

The Automobile Association said in March it thought the Government should consider banning pursuits.

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said one in five police pursuits ended in crashes.

Banning pursuits was "something we should look at and see how it is working in other conditions", he said.

Pursuits are banned in the Australian state of Queensland, except where the driver was involved in a murder or considered an imminent threat to life.

Police will hold a media stand-up at 10am at Rotorua Police Station on this morning's fatal crash.


Tune in to the Herald for live coverage.