The Prime Minister has cancelled her scheduled events after news broke of a gunman opening fire at a mosque in Christchurch.

Jacinda Ardern has been in New Plymouth for various announcements and a school visit. She had been due to open the Womad music festival this evening.

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National's MP for Ilam Gerry Brownlee said news of the incident came as a shock.

"I'm in Merivale at the moment which is quite a distance but the footpaths are rapidly emptying. I've just talked to a couple of people who have got kids locked down in city centre at the climate change protest today.

"It's one of those situations where people can't believe it. They're terribly worried about any family members who are in the city centre," Brownlee said.

"The people of Christchurch have had a hell of a lot in the last decade happen that they never thought would happen, but this is particularly shocking," Brownlee said.