A total of 224 guns were handed in today at the Government's first buyback event.

One hundred-and-sixty-nine owners of now-forbidden firearms passed through Christchurch's Riccarton Racecourse during the five-hour event, which started at 10am.

It's one of 258 that will run across the country over the next three months.

On top of more than 200 guns, owners handed in 217 parts and accessories – with the total compensation cost coming to $433,682.

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Acting Canterbury District Commander Mike Johnson said everything ran smoothly, and firearms owners' attitude towards this process was outstanding.

"It's been a very positive experience, we're really proud of what we've achieved today."

Johnson said people were queuing up outside the venue from 8.30 – more than an hour before the event was set to begin.

"We opened early to facilitate the public coming through – and they went right through to past 3 o'clock. The engagement from the public has been stunning."

He said although there was a bit of a wait at times, people had a phenomenal attitude.

"I didn't see anyone who was grumbling – or see any angst in the room. There was a real reality that this was the first of these processes, and they were here to hand them in and get fair compensation for their weapons."

Although more than 900 Cantabrians had signed up online to hand in their guns, police didn't find today's attendance a let-down.

Johnson said that number represented the whole region – many of whom would likely attend events closer to home.

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He said after today's success, hopefully more of them would have increased confidence in the process.

"This law change doesn't make people who've got these firearms bad. They're good New Zealanders. [We're] encouraging them to come in and partake in the process during the six-month period, so that we honour the intent behind the legislation."

Police Minister Stuart Nash praised both police and gun-owners for the success of the busy event.

"New Zealand has never run a gun buyback and amnesty before. Months of work has been invested and it has paid off."

Nash extended his thanks to the people of Canterbury – who he said had done the right thing.

He said the results of the first collection were very encouraging, with early figures indicating people were coming through the door faster than one every two minutes.

In addition, a prohibited firearm or part was handed in at a rate of more than one a minute, and payments were processed at a rate of more than $1400 per minute.

Nash said the Government had put aside $200 million for gun buybacks, and they would top up that figure if required.

He echoed sentiments from local police that they wanted gun-owners to feel they'd been fairly compensated – and not unfairly targeted.

"We have consistently acknowledged the vast majority of firearms owners are law-abiding. They have done nothing wrong. The law changed and now they hold prohibited weapons. This was never aimed at them. It was designed to ensure the events of March 15 in Christchurch do not happen again."

It appears he got his wish, with the vast majority of gun-owners who attended today's event walking away satisfied.

One man - who wanted to remain anonymous - said he didn't have much faith going in.

"I was selling my hunting firearm - it's a semi-automatic. I got $13,000 for it."

He said he was happy with the amount of money he got for what was a very expensive purchase.

"I didn't think this would be a fair process at all - I wasn't particularly happy about it. But the outcome was good and they handled it well."

Another man who handed in his SKS semi-automatic said the entire process was painless - and the wait was pretty short.

"You show up, they give you a number and call you up one at a time. They've got a gunsmith on site who goes over it with you - and I reckon they're being pretty fair."

A police spokesperson said they only had one dispute over price, and it was able to be peacefully resolved.

But not everyone was completely happy.

One seller said most of the people he'd spoken to were responsible gun-owners - and pretty annoyed they had to be there at all.

But he said he couldn't fault how police were handling the new and unique situation.

"I think the Government is overreacting, and police are having to mop up the mess they've made."

The second gun buyback event will also be held in Christchurch. It's due to take place at Riccarton Racecourse between 10am and 3pm tomorrow.