22 Feb 2024

Taupō schools out of lockdown

10:08 pm on 22 February 2024
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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

A lockdown of several schools in Taupō has ended though police say they are still searching for a "person of interest" who is at large.

Police say while schools are out of lockdown, they will continue to have an increased presence in the area.

They are are looking for a man who is still at large.

"You know who you are, your family knows who you are, and we know who you are so let's get this squared away," Taupō area commander inspector Phil Edwards said.

"It's time to front up as this isn't going away, so it's best you come and see us at the Taupō police station sooner rather than later."

Police will follow up with associates, friends and family of the man to in a bid to find him.

"That means the community is going to see us out and about as we carry out those reassurance patrols, knock on doors and execute search warrants."

Schools are expected to be open Friday.

"The community is going to see police out and about and we'll be visiting schools to provide that reassurance and thank the kids for being brave and listening to instructions during what was a pretty unsettling time for them," Edwards said.

Anyone with information about the man is asked to contact police.

How it unfolded

Cordons were in place at both ends of Arthur Crescent and Invergarry Road.

Taupō's Tauhara College was among those in lockdown and its principal Ben Hancock said all students, staff and other people on site were accounted for.

"Most students did extremely well and responded to instructions. A notice will be going out to parents/caregivers tonight to provide some more information about our emergency lockdown procedures.

"I would like to personally thank you for your support and trust during this difficult time."

Earlier the school said whānau interviews had been postponed and it had been in contact with the bus company to ensure there would be buses for students who needed them after the lockdown.

Police said the public were to avoid the Hilltop area and cordons were in place.

"Cordons are in place on multiple streets in the area, and schools have been placed into lockdown as a precaution. More information will be released when we are in a position to do so."

Taupō Intermediate School, Tauhara Primary School and Lake Taupō Christian College said they were also out of lockdown.

Kiddle Drive resident Simone was on the phone to a RNZ reporter the moment the lockdown lifted at 5pm.

"I'm relieved because I can see students walking so my child will be home very soon."

Another resident said the two and a half hour lockdown left parents of school children stuck in limbo on the street.

The person, whose property was in the cordon, said the lockdown began shortly before school was due to end for the day.

"I was looking down at the end of the road and there was...police have closed off Kiddle Drive, you can't come up or out and there's about a dozen cars outside the intermediate school, people waiting for their kids to come out of school."

One local whose property remained within the smaller cordon said police told them to lock themselves indoors earlier this evening.

They had not heard anything since, and didn't know what was going on, but couldn't see anything unusual from their property.

The police operation appeared to be fast-moving, and had been concentrated over by the hospital earlier in the day, the resident said.

Taupō Hospital said it was not in lockdown and patients and staff were safe.

"However, the hospital is within the cordons as police are dealing with an incident in the area. If anyone is needing to go to the hospital, Police are allowing people through."

Police were asking all residents to stay inside and contact them on 111 and reference event number P057866209 if they see anything of concern.