Police in Napier say the men who beat and stabbed a 24-year-old man may be associated with a local gang.
The victim, who is on life support in Hawke's Bay Hospital, was attacked along with a friend as they walked home along Kennedy Road in Napier south early on Sunday morning.
Police are seeking three Maori men in their early twenties.
A witness has said the offenders were using language which could indicate they are from a local gang.
But Detective Sergeant Emmet Lynch says this may be a possible motive for the attack, but neither the victim nor his friend provoked the offenders in any way and are not involved in any gang.
A Napier resident has found a knife in their backyard that police believe is linked to the attack.
Police say the knife was found by a resident who lives near where the attack happened and it will be examined over the next few days.
After extensive interviews with the injured man's associate, they have also released descriptions of three men they would like to talk to.
All three are Maori and in their early 20s. One man was wearing black jeans and a plain black hoody; another was wearing faded blue jeans and a white T-shirt; while the third had on blue jeans and a plain black hoody.
Police are still looking for the person who helped the victim when he was found in Kennedy Road and a couple with a small child walking nearby at the time of the incident.