A stunned onlooker thought a forklift being taken on a late-night joyride was being used for work - until he noticed it was being chased by fleet-footed police.

A 17-year-old youth has been arrested overnight after allegedly stealing a forklift and driving it up Auckland's Queen St.

Police say the teenager stole the forklift from a construction yard in central Auckland and then travelled the wrong way down Darby St and onto Queen St where police saw him and told him to stop.

He allegedly failed to stop and officers gave chase on foot.

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Police say the driver swerved into their path, trying to hit the officers who had to jump out of the way to avoid injury.

The two chasing officers managed to climb into the cab of the forklift and remove the driver while a third officer put on the brakes to stop the machine crashing into a parked car.

Those who saw the chase unfold said it was perhaps the craziest thing they'd ever seen on a city street.

"We saw the bro pull out of the side street on the forkflift," said the stunned witness.

"He was boosting. We thought he was working but then we saw the cops chasing him and he sidestepped them on the forklift."

After police managed to pull the teenager off the forklift, one officer had to jump on to the moving machine before it ploughed into parked vehicles.

The witness, who was in town to see hip-hop artist Ty dolla $ign perform at the Logan Campbell Centre, said fortunately there wasn't a lot of traffic around at the time.

A 17-year-old male has been charged with burglary, unlawful taking, dangerous driving and two charges of aggravated assault.

He was due to appear in Auckland District Court today.