Hawke's Bay's top police officer has backed the "split-second" decision of an officer who shot a man carrying an imitation pistol in a courtyard area of Flaxmere Primary School.

A 31-year-old man, who was shot once suffering injuries to his arm and torso, was on Wednesday morning in a stable condition under police guard at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

He is set to be charged with Arms Act offences.

Eastern District Commander Tania Kura said the man had visited the school three times in a day and threatened a staff member during the third visit just after 2pm.

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A second staff member had tried to reason with the man from a safe distance before police arrived about 2.11pm, Kura said.

When police arrived at the school, the man fled from officers, heading further into school grounds with officers receiving reports the man had a firearm, which later turned out to be an imitation pistol.

Police officers were deployed into the school to prevent the man making his way into any classrooms or areas where pupils and teachers were present.

When found in the courtyard, with classrooms just metres away, the man presented a firearm and was shot once, Kura said.

Medical assistance was immediately provided by the officers present and the man was transported by ambulance to hospital.

Kura told RNZ's Morning Report she understands questions will be raised by the general public around Tuesday's incident.

"I feel like (police) go out every day and have to make quick decisions and in a dynamic situation you've got to factor in school's finishing, parents are arriving, somebody could have walked into that courtyard.

"There's a lot of things you have to factor in and make that split-second decision," she said.

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Kura said the man had links to both a staff member and student at the school.

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Police and mum comforting daughter after leaving Flaxmere Primary School after lock down when a potential gunman was seen in the school grounds. Photo / Warren Buckland
Police and mum comforting daughter after leaving Flaxmere Primary School after lock down when a potential gunman was seen in the school grounds. Photo / Warren Buckland

"There'd been something brewing for him but we don't know what he was thinking at that particular time," Kura said.

"The people who were involved - the staff and the family members - are actually quite in shock and we're just giving them some time to gather their thoughts while we're speaking to them."

The Independent Police Conduct Authority had been notified of the incident, and police would conduct their own investigations as well.

"It will be gone over with a fine-tooth comb," Kura said.

"It's a big deal to actually shoot someone and the staff are often quite traumatised by that as well, so we put welfare and support systems in and around them."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said although he could not make any in-depth comment on the situation he trusted the work of the local police.

"I have absolute confidence in the District Commander Tania Kura and trust her to make the best operational decisions on the ground based on all of her experience and knowledge of local circumstances."