A Gisborne dairy owner was struck over the head with a tyre lever during a robbery yesterday.

The 43-year-old man suffered bruising and cuts to the head and was taken by St John Ambulance to Gisborne Hospital for treatment. He was later discharged.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Ford said a man walked into the dairy in the Elgin Shopping Centre about 6.30am and bought a packet of cigarettes.

As the owner was opening the till, he was struck on the head with what was believed to be a steel tyre-lever.

The offender took money from the till before being chased by the dairy owner down the road and into the alleyway behind the shopping centre.

He drove from the alley in a car.

Mr Ford said police believed the man had been watching the dairy after it opened.