Locating man who stole eleven guns from Palmerston North police station an 'absolute priority' say police

Alan James Harris
Alan James Harris Photo credit: New Zealand Police

The location of 38-year-old man who is thought to have stolen eleven guns from a Palmerston North police station is an "absolutely priority" for the community's safety according to police.

Alan James Harris is wanted in relation to the theft on Thursday morning.

Acting Central District Commander Sarah Stewart says locating him is crucial.

"Our absolute priority is locating Harris," she said in a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"This is so the community is, and feels, safe."

A dedicated hotline has been established, and anyone with information regarding Harris's whereabouts is urged to contact police on 0800 351 3600.

Harris is known to police, but Stewart would not confirm the nature of his criminal background.

Stewart says police will be taking "every precaution" towards their safety while searching for him.

Of the eleven firearms stolen from the station, one of is unlawful. 

Stewart would not confirm if the firearms are operable, or if any ammunition was stolen with them.

She could confirm the storage area the guns were held in was locked. 

When asked if staff members were absent due to the police presence required for Anzac day services, Stewart could not confirm the number of staff in the building at the time, due to the on-going investigation. 

She said the investigation would provide answers.

"I have questions, as do you. The investigation will answer these questions."

Police Minister Stuart Nash says he has "grave concerns" regarding the theft.

"At the time we announced the buyback and the amnesty the Government sought assurance that strong systems and processes were in place to handle surrendered firearms," Nash told Newshub.

"Police told me they were confident they could manage the collection of these firearms. I have now sought fresh assurances from the Commissioner that all stations and firearms handling processes are secure and fit for purpose."