It was like a scene from a horror movie.
That's how Haraia Bowen-Hakaraia remembers the moments before an attack over the weekend, when he was beaten, racially abused and robbed as he cowered in his car at a Levin intersection.
Police said they are investigating his report of being assaulted at the intersection of Winchester and Roosevelt Sts, when a wallet and car keys were taken.
"Inquiries are ongoing to locate the offender," a spokesperson said.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, meanwhile, has wished the man a speedy recovery, adding that it's "heartening to see police take swift action" even if other aspects of his recollections are extremely disturbing.
Bowen-Hakaraia had just visited a friend around 5.30pm Saturday and was driving home in his Toyota Corolla, having just pulled a u-turn, when he noticed a car in his rearview mirror with its high beams on, he said.
"He's sitting up there, like no movement," he recalled of a lime green Suzuki Swift-like hatchback at the top of a rise in the road behind him. "I carry on, thinking nothing of it. All of the sudden, he's now at my bumper. Like a horror film - that close."
Bowen-Hakaraia said he slowly drove on, confused as to what was happening, before the vehicle pulled up beside him at a nearby intersection, the two strangers inside it screaming abuse out the window.
The driver then pulled in front of Bowen-Hakaraia's car, stopping the vehicle in a lane of traffic to block him before jumping out and approaching him.
"I can't go anywhere," Bowen-Hakaraia recalled through tears on Tuesday. "I see him get out of the car and he's definitely on something - you can just tell."
"What's that on your face?" he said the stranger yelled at him, referring to his tā moko - then calling him a f***ing black c***" and a "n*****" as he inflicted punch after punch for what seemed to him like five minutes.
"He steps away as if to tag team and the other one comes in for what felt like five minutes," Bowen-Hakaraia said, adding that the first man then returned to the window and had another go.
"Give me your keys! Give me your keys, you f***ing black n*****!" Bowen-Hakaraia recalled one of the attackers yelling as he leaned with his face to the passenger seat, trying to avoid the blows.
The two ran off after grabbing the keys from the ignition and his wallet from the dashboard, he said. They didn't take his car.
On Monday, Bowen-Hakaraia got his car back from police after it was forensically examined. He was told a fingerprint found on the vehicle belongs to a person who matches his description of one of the attackers, so he's hopeful the case will be solved.
But what still cuts the most, he said, wasn't the attack itself but that cars drove by without slowing as he screamed for help.
"I was yelling at the top of my voice," he recalled.
He wants to hope the people in the three cars he saw pass called for help even if they were afraid to stop, but it haunts him wondering if they just didn't care to get involved.
He's not the first person to have voiced such concerns, the Race Relations Commissioner said in a statement to the Herald.
"I say it time and time again- we need to be upstanders not bystanders," Foon said. "This means we need to assist those under attack, seek help on their behalf or report it immediately. In these stressful times it is even more important for New Zealanders to come together and support each other."
Foon said he fully supports a thorough investigation and hopes anyone involved in an attack will be charged appropriately.
"Everyone has the right to enjoy their culture, including the wearing of tā moko, and this includes the right to be treated with respect and dignity," he said. "We also have the right to not be harassed, taunted or teased because of skin colour, accent, dress, or anything else related to race or ethnicity."
Bowen-Hakaraia said he doesn't know exactly how to describe the attack, which seemed unprovoked and random but also racial. Upon reflection, he thinks the car might have been waiting at the top of the hill for some time, looking for someone to victimise.
As he struggles to make sense of the attack, he said he takes comfort in advice a friend has given him: "They are the victim, not you. Don't give them the power to stop you from living."