A major car crash north of Kaikoura has claimed three lives and injured four others, two critically.
Police saidtwo others had moderate to serious injuries.
The crash, between a car and a truck, happened just after 3pm.
A witness at the scene said the crash was north of Hapuku and south of Mangamaunu on a section of road not affected by earthquake repair works.
"It looks like a really big car accident."
Although the crash happened on a straight stretch of road, the local man said it wasn't known for speeding. Accommodation provider Lynn Robinson was rocked to hear the crash so close to her home was fatal.
"It's just tragic. It's devastating."
She said the crash was just beyond a sharp bend that had only recently had its speed limit reduced to 80km/h because of the high number of smashes over decades.
The stretch of road where it happened was known to be the only place for some distance - north or south - where cars could pass.
"All the fast drivers and trucks know that's the place to pass but it's a blind corner and you've got to time it just right."
Robinson said locals would be on tenterhooks waiting to find out if they knew the dead people.
Robinson was also expecting guests. "I'm waiting for a family of three. I just pray it's not them."
She said two air ambulance helicopters had now landed on State Highway 1. Traffic was being diverted along a narrow coastal track to loop around the crash.
Police said State Highway 1 will stay closed while they remain at the scene.