A controlled explosion has been carried out on a suspicious item in central Auckland this evening, police say.

The New Zealand Defence Force was called in by police to inspect the item, which was a small suitcase beside a rubbish bin.

Police cordoned off the corner of Quay St and Gore St earlier in the evening after the "item of concern" was discovered.

The cordon was lifted about 7.30pm this evening.

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Several small explosions were heard from within the police cordon.

Police will carry out further investigations.

A woman at the scene told the Herald there was a "large bang" at 6.53pm then two smaller ones five minutes later.

This photo posted to Twitter shows bomb removal experts arriving on the scene. Photo / Simone McCallum / Twitter
This photo posted to Twitter shows bomb removal experts arriving on the scene. Photo / Simone McCallum / Twitter

Emily West said she heard a small explosion which was followed by an "acrid smell in the air".

Amelia Petrovich said she was having coffee at a cafe in the cordon when she saw two police cars pull up.

"Police started talking to people outside Mac's Brewbar and then they evacuated everyone from there.

"They eventually came into the cafe and evacuated us as well.

"They just said there had been an item of concern found around the corner from Mac's."

Petrovich said people weren't panicking but were lingering in the area.

"No one really knows what's going on. It's a bit weird.

"We're outside Britomart Country Club. A lot of people are watching and hanging out, wanting to see what's happening."

Auckland Transport said the Quay St cordon is between Commerce and Gore streets and police are diverting traffic.

Ray Res, the manager of Daikoko on Quay, which is a short distance from the cordon, said officers told him to stay inside the restaurant.

A witness who was waiting for his bus said there had been significant delays to traffic and buses in the area.

Map shows the location of the cordon. Credit / Google.
Map shows the location of the cordon. Credit / Google.