One officer was serious but stable and the injuries sustained by the other three were not life threatening, Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said.

He said the siege, which was still ongoing at 6:00 pm (0500 GMT), began after a police plane searching for cannabis came under fire near the remote North Island town of Kawerau.

The Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) was deployed and four of its officers were shot in a stand-off at a rural property.

"It is always distressing for us all when officers are injured doing their duty," he told reporters in Wellington. Clement said no one was injured aboard the plane that came under fire, adding that indications pointed to a lone offender, but he was unable to go into too much detail.

Regular police in New Zealand do not carry firearms, relying on the specialist AOS.

The country tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally disturbed man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana.

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