Hundreds of tired tourists and Kaikoura residents have been safely evacuated from the earthquake-ravaged town to the safety of Christchurch.

About 390 relieved tourists and locals, as well as 60 returning emergency personnel and staff, four dogs and seven tonnes of luggage, arrived at the Christchurch port of Lyttelton on HMNZS Canterbury at 1.30am.

They were then shuttled on 12 buses to Horncastle Arena in Christchurch where Civil Defence and Christchurch City Council staff are helping the evacuees get home, or continue their travels from Christchurch.

It was a long, tiring overnight trip for the evacuees, who boarded yesterday afternoon.


Chris Cooper says he's looking forward to a shower and some sleep, after travelling home with his dog Odin.

He said the most memorable part of this week in Kaikoura has been the teamwork.

It was great to see all the locals pitch in and help each other, he said.

Council community support manager Claire Phillips said the council was negotiating with rental and hotel companies to make sure they and the tourists do not lose large sums of money.

Chief of Navy Rear Admiral John Martin told the Herald this morning that HMNZS Canterbury is being loaded with portaloos, food, gas bottles, piping, power poles, bitumen and other key supplies and equipment that is too heavy to be airlifted in.

The ship is expected back at Kaikoura tomorrow morning.