A "disturbing" incident in Tāneatua over the weekend has illustrated the need for a new police station, locals say.
The police station was damaged by a suspicious fire in December 2018 and, since then, locals have been calling for a rebuild.
A sign at the empty site says the community can "look forward" to a new police base in 2020.
However, a police spokeswoman said yesterdaythe facility was not expected to be finished until early next year.
The empty site is within 200m of where a 27-year-old man was critically injured in an incident on Sunday.
Police were called to reports of a serious assault on McKenzie St just before 2.30pm. The man received serious head injuries and one of his hands was severed in the incident. He was flown to Waikato Hospital.
Two men have been arrested in relation to the incident and were due to appear in the Whakatāne District Court on Tuesday.
Tāneatua Community Board member Luke Ruiterman has lived in the Tāneatua area for more than 35 years.
He said the community needed a police station for the sake of "law and order" and the "disturbing" incident on Sunday exemplified that.
"We have been asking them [NZ Police] about it for I don't know how long."
However, he said, police staff had been "more visible" doing patrols than they were before the fire, despite the large area they had to cover.
When asked why the new police station had been delayed, a police spokeswoman said police had been working with stakeholders to make sure the base would be "fit for purpose".
"Additionally this project forms part of police's overall prioritisation investment plan and is being resourced accordingly as it is prioritised."
She said crime had not increased in the town since the former station was lost to fire.
"The Area Commander has also provided a secondary member at Tāneatua so as to provide increased coverage."
Prior to the fire there was only one sworn staff member based in the village.
Tāneatua Superette co-owner Prem Kumar Kumar said his store hadn't been hard hit by crime but he would like the police station rebuild to be "sped up".
Sunday's assault came after a "really peaceful, nice and quiet" Sunday afternoon until "all of a sudden all this drama happened", he said.
He was unaware a man was critically injured around the corner until a customer arrived saying "someone's had their hand chopped off".
"Then we saw lots of police cars go past," Kumar said. He estimated eight to 10 cars responded.
The superette remained open and Kumar said he "still felt safe".
"It's a rural, small community. Everybody just helps each other out and backs each other up."
After the incident the man's detached hand was preserved in ice on board the helicopter flying him to hospital.
Liam Brettkelly, a pilot for the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter, was called to fly the critical patient with a severed hand and a serious head injury from Whakatāne Hospital to Waikato Hospital.
Brettkelly said the man's hand was packed in ice in a bowl while he lay intubated and unconscious for the short journey between hospitals.
Whakatane Hospital had already stabilised the patient, so the transfer was "quite straightforward", but something of this nature was always "challenging" for medical teams, he said.
"It really was a team effort."
The helicopter was equipped with ventilators and other medical items to ensure the patient's breathing remained stable, he said.
Rescue helicopter crews have seen a large number of severe injuries, so a single amputee situation was "not unusual", he said.
Brettkelly said he had heard that the man was taken to Whakatāne Hospital by a car, which actually passed the ambulance on the way to the scene.
A St John spokeswoman said they had sent one ambulance and a helicopter to the scene and one person was taken to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition.
The man was now stable in the hospital's High Dependency Unit, a Waikato District Health Board spokeswoman said.
Waikato Hospital had dealt with similar incidents before.
In 2009, a King Country meat worker saw his hand flapping around after nearly cutting it off with a bandsaw. Surgeons at Waikato Hospital worked for 13 hours to reattach the worker's partially amputated left wrist.
The latest incident is being investigated by police.