Shot, injured and bleeding, they bundled themselves into a bullet-riddled car.

It's believed the four victims then drove the winding and pitch-black west coast roads of Kawhia in search of help.

After about 5km, the desperate group ended up at Hauturu School; a tiny settlement with a handful of residents, 20km south of Kawhia.

It was 4am. The school's principal is believed to live in the house next to the school on Harbour Rd.

Advertisement

The Herald understands she was disturbed by the shooting victims, but unsure about answering the door, she opted to call a neighbour for help instead.

After receiving the frightening early-morning phone call he raced over to the principal's house and discovered the gruesome scene.

Police were immediately alerted.

A rescue helicopter was called to the sleepy settlement.

One person was so critically injured they soon succumbed to their injuries. Bullet wounds, police suspect.

Three others have suffered moderate injuries and are believed to be recovering in Waikato Hospital.

Police descended on the scene.

The grey Toyota Harrier SUV appears to be parked in the driveway of the house situated on the school grounds.

With the sun yet to rise, police pulled over a silver Toyota Hilux on Harbour Rd, at the intersection of Berntsen Rd.

The vehicle - which was taken away by a tow truck at 10.30am - forms part of the seemingly ever-widening crime scene that now stretches about 10km. Berntsen Rd is closed off.

Day broke and the word spread. More and more police descended on the area, wondering what happened during the night.

Police set up a camp opposite the school. There were about eight police cars, a trailer as well as their booze bus, while a police photographer took photos of items of interest, including clothing, on the ground.

Residents were then called and told the school was shut for the day due to an incident taking place there. The school, crawling with armed police officers, was no place for children today.

The silver ute which was pulled over by police during the early hours of this morning on Harbour Rd at the intersection of Berntsen Rd. Photo / Dean Taylor
The silver ute which was pulled over by police during the early hours of this morning on Harbour Rd at the intersection of Berntsen Rd. Photo / Dean Taylor

Locals who needed to take their children to other schools are stopped at road blocks, told they can't travel any further.

"We hear there's one dead but we're locked in, we can't get out," one startled resident told the Herald. "There's no school and we can't get out to take the other one to high school.

"They've got the AOS, the men with the big guns there too.

"They tell us that it's a crime scene and we can't get out."

The Toyota Harrier SUV which the injured are believed to have travelled in appears to have bullet holes, its back window is also smashed out while clothing, a shoe and blankets are strewn on the ground around it.

A tent was erected over the vehicle as detectives scoured for evidence.

The Harbour Rd property, where the injured are believed to have travelled from, has been cordoned off.

All that can be seen from the road is the fruit and vegetable stall, its red letterbox and long driveway which weaves into the property, a shed visible in the distance.

The Harbour Rd property where it's believed the four shooting victims fled from before seeking help at the nearby Hauturu School. Photo / Dean Taylor
The Harbour Rd property where it's believed the four shooting victims fled from before seeking help at the nearby Hauturu School. Photo / Dean Taylor

It's been a whirlwind day for the little village which has a school that's 101 years old boasting a roll of about 20 children and two teachers.

But official details about what happened remain sparse. Police were this afternoon yet to confirm what took place and who was involved.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley would only say staff were called to a "rural address" at 4am after reports four people were shot.

"One person is assisting police with their inquiries and at this stage we are not seeking anyone else in relation to the incident.

"Police are working to understand the circumstances."

The owners of the Harbour Rd property declined to comment.