The crash, between a van and truck, occurred just before 10am near the Tarawera Cafe.

The owner of the Tarawera Cafe, Jim Andrew, says three vans were heading north: two pulled into the public toilet area by the cafe and the third got sideswiped by a truck and trailer.

One person has been flown to Hawke's Bay Hospital in a critical condition and two others in a serious condition have been flown to Gisborne and Palmerston North hospitals.

Seven other people in a moderate condition are being transported to the three hospitals.

The road is blocked and motorists are asked to avoid the area.