Yesterday's early morning tsunami warning following the devastating earthquake is a timely reminder to Far Northerners to ensure they are up to date with Civil Defence alerts and have an emergency evacuation pack ready.

Kaitaia police Acting Senior Sergeant Sarah Wihongi said the tsunami sirens went off about 2.15am across the Far North after the 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

The quake struck off Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury just after midnight yesterday, claiming at least two lives, and causing damage in central Wellington.

Mrs Wihongi said the sirens brought many people out of their homes along the east coast, and seeking information on what was happening.


She said Civil Defence information is available from the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group's (CDEM) Facebook page - or online at

Mrs Wihongi said one disappointing aspect of yesterday's tsunami alert was that some people defied Civil Defence warnings and headed for the coast to get a good look at any tsunami that might arrive.

"If there's a tsunami alert people should not head to the coast to have a look, but get to higher ground as soon as possible," she said.

Mrs Wihongi said it was also a timely reminder for people to ensure they had an emergency evacuation kit ready, which included food and drink, batteries, torch, radio, something to cook on and clothing.

Details of what to put in such a pack are also on the CD website.

Meanwhile, the tsunami alert meant Russell barman Steve Crockatt did a double shift.

The regular Russell Radio operator was shutting up shop at the Swordfish Club where he'd been working a long shift as barman when the tsunami siren went off.

Mr Crockatt ran up to the Russell Radio marine station's office above the club, went on the internet to find out as much as he could and then started notifying boats in Bay of Islands and out at sea.

Damage caused by yesterday morning's 7.5 earthquake at CentrePort in Wellington. Photo / NZ Herald
Damage caused by yesterday morning's 7.5 earthquake at CentrePort in Wellington. Photo / NZ Herald

"From the station I could see it was low tide and there was no visible sign of unusual tidal action," Mr Crockatt said. A short while after he began what would turn into a few hours' shift on the radio, the Russell police officer arrived.

"He was out and about.

"The Civil Defence boys were pretty quick to get their warnings out. We were streaming any updates. It was a case of sharing the information - everything seemed to work well," Mr Crockatt said at the end of his unscheduled radio shift.

At Taupo Bay Holiday Park, manager John Urlich and his family evacuated from their beach front home and headed up the hill to the local fire station at around 1.30am.

Mr Urlich described the tsunami alert as "pretty uneventful".

The park only had a couple of guests so heading for higher ground was an easy process.

Some other Taupo Bay residents were at the fire station until the all clear came, while as many people stayed in their homes.

Mr Urlich described the family's move to higher ground as "quite painless, and better to be on the safe side".