Hawke's Bay's top Civil Defence controller has warned residents that there is a risk of big aftershocks after last night's large earthquake.

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence emergency management group controller Ian Macdonald said that while coastal residents around Haumoana and Te Awanga had been cleared to return home they, along with the rest of the region's residents, had been advised to stay in touch with updates through radio, television, civil defence sites and social media as any major aftershocks could change the situation.

"For the next couple of days there is the risk of a big aftershocks - we have to be ready for that," .

"We are continuing to monitor the situation."


Mr Mcdonald said he was pleased with the reaction of large numbers of coastal residents who made their own decisions to head to higher ground or inland after the earthquake which shattered their sleep just after midnight.

"As it panned out we only had to evacuate about 100 people people who were in the red zone."

He said civil defence were in contact with the national body and were advised to evacuate the residents, as well as some in the Mahia region, as potential tsunami warnings were issued.

Mr Macdonald said he expected some community reaction as to why they did not set off the major sirens, but said the information they were receiving and from what their emergency tsunami model showed meant there was only likely to be a small wave, if any at all.

He said one issue they had to confront was a mass movement of people in the early morning as such situations can create dangers of their own.

"With what we had we decided not to evacuate - it was based on the information we were getting."

While tsunami threats had been cancelled a warning to stay away from the immediate beachfronts in the Hastings and Napier districts was still in place.

All evacuated residents had been allowed home.


Mr Macdonald said civil defence had had no reports of any major damage, although on social media many people reported items falling.

He said it was clear from the public reaction across the board in the region that there was "a lot more awareness out there" today about earthquakes and potential tsunami.

Despite no siren warnings several Napier people decided to head for the Bluff Hill look-out just in case.

Mr Mcdonald's advice was simply "keep monitoring news" in the event of a severe aftershock.

He said at this stage it he could not say when the "stay away from the beaches" warning would be lifted.