Arrest after Ruatoria firearms incident

Police have arrested and charged a man following Saturday's suspected gang shootout in Ruatoria.

The 49-year-old has been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, and will appear in Gisborne District Court on Monday.

"Members of the public can expect a heightened police presence in the area as enquires continue," said Det Snr Sgt Kevin Ford.

Police were called about 9:20am to McClutchie Rd in the East Coast town. Residents of the street were asked to stay indoors.

A witness told Newshub he heard four or five gunshots, and believes it was a gang confrontation. 

"We heard a vehicle take off at speed, and within about the next 30 seconds we heard a big crash. It crashed right outside the local Four Square supermarket. It looks like it rolled." 

He said a Mongrel Mob member got out of the car, and he could see "a couple" of firearms. Another car soon arrived and took the unhurt driver and the weapons away before police arrived, he said.

"They sped off into the distance."

A child was also nearly hit by the fleeing vehicle, the witness said.

"Anyone with information that may assist this investigation is urged to contact police on 105," said Ford.

The National Party used the incident to take a potshot at the Government, calling it "soft on crime".

"With gunshots, violence and speeding vehicles it’s lucky nobody was hurt," said justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell.

"Communities shouldn't have to be worried about their children playing in the street or be forced to stay in their homes because of thugs."

National has promised to crack down on the growing gang problem with a 'Strike Force Raptor' unit, modelled on similar initiatives in Australia. 

Police Minister Stuart Nash last year said the Government had put hundreds of extra police on the frontlines, and growth in gang numbers was thanks to Australia deporting them here. 

Police have not commented on whether the incident in Ruatoria was gang-related, but have said the parties were known to each other.