A man died and eight others, including two unrestrained passengers in the boot of a car, were injured after a two-vehicle crash in Northland.

A 21-year-old man from Waipū was the sole occupant in a car that collided with a Mitsubishi Challenger carrying eight young people.

Of the eight people in the other vehicle, five suffered moderate to serious injuries and were taken to the Whangārei Hospital. The other three passengers had minor injuries and were also taken to hospital for assessment.

The latest fatality just south of Whangārei has pushed Northland's road death toll to 20, compared with 15 at the end of May last year. It took until July 13 last year before the road toll hit 20, with 40 people dying on Northland's roads in 2017.

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Acting Senior Sergeant Ryan Gray said the man who died was heading north in a Nissan Muriel when his vehicle collided with a south-bound Mitsubishi Challenger on the passing lane of State Highway One, near Puwera, south of Whangārei about 3am on Saturday.

He said two unrestrained passengers were in the boot of the south-bound vehicle which was highly dangerous and advised people against such behaviour. It was the second time in just over a week police discovered people travelling in the boot of a car.

Bailey Patmore, 14, from Cannons Creek in Porirua died in a crash after a police pursuit north of Wellington on May 19. He had squeezed into the boot of the small hatchback, which was also carrying five other passengers.

Gray said all eight people in the Mitsubishi Challenger were aged between 19 and 22 but he not could say where they were from or where they were heading when the crash happened. The road was wet from light rain overnight.

"The message from police is for drivers to drive to the conditions, look after your mates which means have a sober driver, and to make sure you buckle up," Gray said.

Diversion was put in place through Maungakaramea and Mangapai Rd which added about 20 minutes to the journey. SH1 at Puwera was re-opened at 7.20am.

Police Serious Crash Unit is investigating the crash which followed the deaths of two elderly Far North women in an accident near Houhora Heads on May 15.

Marion Evelyn Andrew, 77, and 76-year-old Pauline Mary Ogilvy, both from Houhora, died after the crash. One died at the scene while the other succumbed to her injuries in hospital.

The worst year on Northland's roads was 1989, when 55 people died. The record low toll was seven in 2011.