The scene where a tour bus rolled off State Highway 5 west of Rotorua.
Police said 27 people were in the vehicle when it crashed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside Rotorua — a popular tourist town in the Bay of Plenty area known for its hot springs.
“Unfortunately police believe that five of those 27 onboard have lost their lives as a result of the crash,” inspector Brent Crowe told reporters.
Crowe said two of the survivors were seriously injured and four were moderately hurt.
“This is an absolute tragedy for Bay of Plenty roads, even more so because of the fact we have Chinese nationals, visitors to our country, who have been impacted.”
Crowe declined to give details of the deceased, saying authorities were still working to identify them and contact their families in China.
He said the driver was not seriously injured and an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way.
He said the accident occurred as the bus approached a bend on a winding, hilly stretch of road.
“At the time, the weather was very unfavourable, there was high winds, fog and a lot of rain. The road surface was clearly wet and therefore slippery,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Wellington told TVNZ that ambassador Wu Xi was on her way to the crash site to help those involved in the crash.
“The embassy attaches great importance to the tragic incident,” it said. “Our deep condolences with those who died and injured.”