A man has been shot dead in Whanganui, amid reports of a gang clash in the suburb of Castlecliff.

Detective Inspector Ross McKay said police have started a homicide investigation after a fatal shooting in Puriri St about 9.40am.

The offenders remain outstanding, however it was believed those involved were known to each other and were known to police, McKay said.

Stuff reported the man, a Mongrel Mob member, had died protecting children and other occupants when rival gang members turned up at his home.

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McKay said additional staff have been sent to Whanganui to assist.

"As inquiries are ongoing, and in response to this incident, the Whanganui community will notice an increased police presence.

"There is no immediate cause for concern to the general public."

Armed police were in Castlecliff and had cordoned off parts of Puriri St.

A group of up to 20 people were inside the police cordon this morning, some visibly upset. One woman was heard screaming: "Yous arrived too late."

Shan Albert, a cousin of the man who was shot, told Stuff that the 27-year-old belonged to a close extended family.

The slain young man had two sons. They are 7 and 3.

"Yes, he was a gang member, but that was just one side of him," Albert told Stuff.

"It was family first. He was a great father and he provided for his family and friends and his kids' mother.

"Everyone knew who he was, but he put on a front. Behind that front he was the softest nicest person. You could easily approach him about anything."

Earlier today a resident said he heard three gunshots and said he saw gang members running from the scene. Another resident said she heard two gunshots.

Te Kura O Kokohuia on Matipo St, which runs into Puriri St, has posted a notice on its Facebook page saying it is in lockdown.

"This is to inform you that your kids are safe and warm," kura principal Tuhi Smith wrote.

Staff at Barsanti Kindergarten in Rogers St said they had no comment to make.