The Automobile Association has called for the Government to review its police pursuit policy and consider the merits of an outright ban on police chases, but Rotorua police say there needs to be a balance.

The call follows the deaths of three people in a high-speed chase in the Tasman district on Sunday - part of a deadly weekend on the country's roads that claimed eight lives.

Nearly three drivers a week on average fled from police in Rotorua last year. Figures released to the Rotorua Daily Post under the Official Information Act showed there were 150 police chases - a jump from the 103 in 2016.

Along with the increase in the number of chases in the region, more ended in crashes.


Rotorua police area prevention manager Brendon Keenan said a lot of high-level talks were going on about changes to the pursuit policy.

"There is always a balance needed.

"The public have a trust and confidence that they're safe on the road, but also, they need to have a trust and confidence in our ability to apprehend people."

Keenan said there were a lot of checks and balances in place and Rotorua police worked to mitigate all the risk it could.

"The biggest part of any chase is risk assessment, it's not a police officer alone on the road, there are a lot of people monitoring the situation.

"We are constantly checking speed, time of day, location, population of people, the road surface. If there's a high risk, we abandon the chase."

In the Bay of Plenty police district there were 79 crashes following police chases last year, compared with 47 the year before and police charged 107 people with failing to stop for police, compared with 77 in 2016.

"We are seeing more pursuits," Keenan said.

"The concern is the level of risk people are prepared to go to, against their own safety and the safety of others."

Police Minister Stuart Nash could not comment on the AA's request, but said he had asked for an update on a review into police chases which began in July.

The joint evaluation is headed by police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority and would look into all pursuits notified to the authority, covering about 75 chases.

New Zealand Police Association regional director Scott Thompson said it was a conversation police had been having for quite some time.

"Ultimately the aim is to not have pursuits.

"We are caught between a rock and a hard place."

Thompson said it was not something police took lightly and there was not an exact solution to the problem.

"Unfortunately people still die when they're not in pursuit. But how many additional people would die if we don't stop these drivers before they kill someone.

"The only way to stop police car chases is to make the penalty high enough that people don't run, that people just stop to deal with whatever they were being stopped for.

"No reason is reason enough not to stop if someone could be killed, and it can be for absolutely ridiculous reasons."

Thompson said it was a scary moment for police when entering into a chase.

"It is dangerous for our staff and they take it very seriously because of the risks involved.

"It's split-second decisions being made by staff trying to do their best."