Police are trying to identify a man wearing a wig who robbed a bank in South Auckland claiming that he had a bomb in an elaborate hoax.
Cordons have been lifted around the Bank of New Zealand branch on the corner of Great South Road and Ronwood Avenue in Manukau after explosives experts found a package left there was not a bomb.
Police say the man they have not yet identified walked into the bank at 10.35am on Friday and demanded cash. He was given a small amount, then left what he claimed was an explosive that he would detonate remotely.
A major operation was launched involving police, the Defence Force bomb squad and Fire Service during which the building and nearby businesses were evacuated and cordons put in place. The bomb squad determined that the small package was not an explosive.
A staff member at a nearby business said he could see several police cars and fire engines and hear helicopters overhead during the scare. St John Ambulance was on standby.
Inspector Jimmy Keenan said it was a very serious threat and they are still looking for the man responsible. The robbery was recorded by security cameras and police have positive leads.
"This is the first incidence of a bomb hoax of this type that I've seen for some months," he says.
There were 20 customers and 18 staff in the bank at the time of the robbery and none were injured.
The Bank of New Zealand says the robbery is a crime against people, not just the bank. Head of enterprise security Owen Loeffellechner says it is caring for staff and customers.
Mr Loeffellechner says one staff member had direct contact with the man, and all remained calm and professional.
Every robbery is a crime against someone's family member and the seriousness can't be overstated, he says.