Police 'visibly upset', cars riddled with bullet holes after Tauranga shooting

Police vehicles were riddled with bullet holes and officers left "visibly upset" after a Tauranga shootout with a man driving a vehicle connected to a double homicide.

At around 7:40pm on Thursday night, officers spotted a vehicle believed to be connected to the death of two people in Omanawa on Tuesday. After activating their lights and sirens, the vehicle fled.

Speaking to media on Friday, Tauranga's District Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said the offender in the fleeing vehicle fired at officers on numerous occasions. 

"Along Carmichael Rd, the driver leaned out of the driver's door and fired a volley of shots at the police vehicle. He did this on numerous occasions," he said.

"At one stage, he actually stopped the vehicle, got out, and took deliberate aim at the police vehicle and fired another volley of shots."

Eventually, the vehicle stopped, but the driver continued to shoot at police, who returned fire. In the exchange of bullets, the driver was killed. 

"This was quite a traumatic event for the officers involved. The police vehicles have got bullet holes in them and the officers involved are quite distraught and distressed over this matter."

Four officers were involved, and they are now on a stand-down period for 10 days and receiving counselling. 

"They are visibly upset."

McGregor said there was public present during Thursday's dramatic events, but no one was injured. Up to 20 shots were fired by the offender. It's believed he used a semi-automatic weapon.

The identity of the driver has yet to be determined, so McGregor wouldn't go into detail about what his connection to the Omanawa homicides may be.

"Once that person is identified, we will able ascertain whether or not he was involved in the homicide," said McGregor.

He wants to now reassure the public they are safe and that "one bad, motivated offender" was responsible.

"We are doing everything that we can to actually ensure that they do feel safe and we are providing extra patrols in the Western Bay of Plenty area and some from out of the district to provide that extra resource to keep on patrolling and carrying out those highly visible reassurance patrols." 

"It's a drug turf war" - Tauranga Mayor

Tauranga's Mayor Tenby Powell blames gangs for a recent spike in violence in the Tauranga area. 

In particular, he points to a correlation with the arrival of so-called '501s' - Kiwi gang members deported from Australia - and a growing level of "sophistication" for criminals here. 

"Things have changed. Not just here in Tauranga but in New Zealand.  With the 501 deportees coming out of Australia, the level of sophistication they bring, the level of violence they bring, and the frequency of which we're seeing it," Powell told The AM Show on Friday.

He says he is not specifically blaming the 501s for this week's violence, but says there has been a "dynamic change" with gangs acting more brazenly.

"And as we saw last night,  as we've seen over the last two or three weeks, [they're] absolutely prepared to take a fight to the police."

He called the escalating gang violence a methamphetamine problem.

"It's a drug turf war and the sooner we cut the head off the meth monster the better."

Gangs' international connections mean more drugs than ever are flowing into the country, Powell said. 

"People would say to me you can't resource this, it's just too expensive to stop meth coming into the country. My response to that is we can't afford not to.  It is destroying our society and we've got to find a way of curbing the inflow of meth into this country."