A Christchurch man said he was shocked - and embarrassed - after the bomb squad had to be called in because an old artillery shell he picked up at the beach turned out to be live.

Police confirmed the incident, which it said was dealt with by the army.

Roading contractor Jackson Dillon, 23, was on an evening walk at a beach at the coastal suburb of Sumner when he found the old shell lying on the ground.

"I didn't think anything of it at the time, other than it being a rather interesting item and took it home with me," he said.

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The old artillery shell found in Sumner turned out to be live. Photo / Supplied
The old artillery shell found in Sumner turned out to be live. Photo / Supplied

"I took some pictures, talked to a friend who knew a thing or two about it, and that's when he said 'oh my god, it could be live'."

Dillon called the police, and he said the next thing he knew the bomb squad were called to his home in Yaldhurst.

A police cordon was put up at around 8pm and seven homes near the junction of Main South Rd and English St were evacuated, he said.

"I'm pretty embarrassed about the whole thing actually, having had the neighbours out in the cold for over an hour," Dillon.

The artillery shell found in Sumner is believed to have come from Godley Head, a military base in Christchurch during World War II. Photo / Supplied
The artillery shell found in Sumner is believed to have come from Godley Head, a military base in Christchurch during World War II. Photo / Supplied

"It's a cold evening and it would have been close to 10pm when we were allowed to go back in."

Godley Head, where Dillon believed the shell originally came from, was a military base in Christchurch during World War II .

These days, the area is popular for camping, walking and the beaches are a family favourite.

Dillon didn't think the shell he found was the only one in the area.

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He wanted signs put up to warn people that there could be old live shells lying around, or at least with information of what to do when one is found.

"There are kids there all the time, and it's not unthinkable for someone to pick up a live shell and toss it into the ocean," he said.

"There's just no warning signs, if there were I wouldn't have gone near that shell."