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The drama unfolded on Wednesday night when two men, one armed with a shotgun and the other with an object similar to a screwdriver, charged into the Tikipunga Tavern demanding money about 10.50pm.
The eyewitness, who was shaken by the experience and did not want to be named, said he was a regular at the tavern and had finished playing in a pool tournament when the two men stormed into the bar.
"I was sitting there when the two guys stormed in. First it was the one with a screwdriver or knife, then the other came in with a double barrel shotgun."
He said the man with the shotgun jumped on the bar and started demanding money and was pointing the firearm at the bar staff.
It was then that one of the bar patrons started to throw plates at the man with the gun, catching him off balance and causing him to slip off the bar on to the floor.
The witness said one of the locals pounced on the man and was quickly joined by two others in a scuffle on the floor. During the melee a shot was fired.
"It just flew past the guy's head," the witness said.
He believed the shot hit the floor and ricocheted into the wall near the trophy cabinet.
Another patron jumped in to try to disarm the man.
"He still had his finger on the trigger and then everyone just swarmed him. He was making a big fight of it and he wasn't going to let go of the gun."
Eventually the gun was taken from the man.
"They got him on the floor with his hands behind his back and waited for the police to come."
The witness said there were about 20 people in the bar at the time and his immediate concern was getting them out of the way of the man with the gun by pushing them into the pokie room.
"Most of them were my whanau and friends so it was quite traumatic. I was shocked by it and shaken ... I never thought I would be in this sort of predicament."
He said the men who managed to get the firearm were heroes.
"Those guys are heroes. If it wasn't for them doing that he could have shot us all. It sends a message to guys like this that you will get caught and it's not okay. This was good community spirit."
However, police said it was very lucky no one was seriously injured and advised people against intervening in these situations for their own safety.
"I would like to acknowledge the patrons' assistance in this incident, however we generally discourage people from intervening in these situations for their own safety," Detective Senior Sergeant John Clayton said.
"There was no money taken in this incident, however it had the potential to have a far worse outcome."
Clayton called on any witnesses to come forward and help with the investigation.
A 25-year-old man who was held by the patrons required medical treatment and remained in Whangārei Hospital on Thursday evening.
When the second robber fled the tavern he got into an altercation with a staff member, who received a minor wound as a result.
Police said it is possible the second suspect got into a waiting vehicle and left the area.
A man appeared before a Justice of the Peace in a bedside court hearing at Whangārei Hospital on Thursday.
He faces a charge of being armed with an offensive weapon, a sawn-off pistol grip shotgun and attempting to rob the Tikipunga Tavern. He was remanded in custody to appear in Whangārei District Court on May 8.
A post on the Tiki Tavern facebook page on Thursday said: "Just want to inform you, we will be closed today, due to some circumstances. We will be open on Saturday."
Anyone who witnessed the incident or who has information can contact police at (09) 430 4500 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.