A 5.0 magnitude earthquake has hit near Nelson tonight, Geonet says.

The quake was centred 15km south-east of Nelson, at a depth of 74km, according to Geonet.

Thousands of people have reported feeling the quake, although most reported only light shaking.

Newstalk ZB reporter Gia Garrick, who lives in Wellington, said the quake was "relatively short but jolty".

Advertisement

There had been three decent shakes over the past six weeks, and this was "definitely the shortest".

"The last couple have been at 1am, and woke me up, but this one hit out of nowhere."

"Everything shook, the bed was shaking for about four seconds. The last couple I thought to myself I'd have to get up and get in a doorway but this one was over before it started."

Erika Schuit, who lives near Masterton, was oblivious to the quake but her son felt it.

"He was sitting on the couch. I was sewing so I thought he must have imagined it because of the noise of the sewing machine," she said.

"I realized he was right when it came up on my earthquake app."

Hans Gutenbrunner was in Mapua, west of Nelson, and felt the "strong" quake as "one sharp move", while Jill Peach in Blenheim said the quake was "short, sharp, gone".

Geonet initially reported the quake had a magnitue of 4.8 but has since upgraded it to a 5.0.