A 15-year-old boy was shot in the chest with an airgun in Motueka on Saturday in what police said could have had serious consequences.

The boy remained in Nelson Hospital today after undergoing surgery to remove the pellet, the Nelson Mail reported.

Constable Mike Main said the boy had been at a house with three others on Saturday morning when one of them picked up a gun and began playing with it.

The boys were not following any safety procedures in handling the firearm which went off, striking the victim in the chest.

A 15-year-old boy had been referred to Youth Aid.