Bayfair Shopping Centre has been evacuated in a fire emergency.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said firefighters were called to an alarm activation at 12.21pm.

"We are investigating it," he said.

Bayfair staff and shoppers have been evacuated from the property until firefighters can determine whether it is safe for people to return.

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A shopper at the mall told the Bay of Plenty Times she and a friend were sitting down for a bite to eat when they heard the alarm going off.

"A lady came over and said 'there has been a fire warning and you have to leave. Take your food and leave'," the shopper said.

They had to wait outside about 20 minutes and then were allowed to return.