A quake that rocked the lower North Island this evening has been upgraded to magnitude 5.8.

GeoNet said the "severe" intensity quake struck 15km east of Pongaroa, on the east coast near the border between Wairarapa and Manawatu, at 9.05pm.

The quake was 24km deep.

GNS duty seismologist Caroline Holden said there has been about 3000 reports from people who said they felt the quake by 9.50pm. They were mostly centred around the central and lower North Island but there were a few as far north as Auckland and one in Dunedin.

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Aftershocks are expected to continue for some time.

No one has reported damage or injury at this stage.

"A lot of them (reported) a lot of rattling but we don't have any reports of damage and we don't expect any either."

Dr Holden said there had been about 10 "really small" aftershocks so far, mostly around 2 and 3 magnitude.

She said it wasn't unusual to have an earthquake in the area.

"The region is prone to very slow earthquakes so it's not a surprise".

The last comparable quake in the region was in Eketahuna last year. It was originally assessed as 6.6 on the Richter Scale but was downgraded to 6.2 and was also felt in similar areas as tonight's shake.

There was damage to walls and chimneys and road closures and the EQC received more than 5000 claims of varying degrees after the Eketahuna quake. Most were minor to moderate but one building had to be demolished and three people suffered moderate injuries after being hit by falling items .

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The quake was felt in many parts of the central and lower North Island and top of the South Island.

Map showing where people felt the quake across New Zealand. Photo / GeoNet
Map showing where people felt the quake across New Zealand. Photo / GeoNet

Quake advisory

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management issued an earthquake advisory this evening.

It said there was no tsunami threat, and the ministry was assessing information with the assistance of scientific advisers.

The ministry said people in the affected area should:
1. Expect aftershocks and remember to drop, cover and hold.
2. Look after yourself and get first aid if necessary. Help others if you can.
3. Assess your home or workplace for damage. If the building appears unsafe get everyone out. Use the stairs, not an elevator and when outside, watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines. Stay out of damaged areas.
4. Look for and extinguish small fires if it is safe to do so. Fire is a significant hazard following earthquakes.
5. Listen to the radio for updated emergency information and instructions.
6. Do not overload phone lines with non-emergency calls.
7. Help people who require special assistance - infants, elderly people, those without transportation, families who may need additional help, people with disabilities and the people who care for them.

Residents have reported feeling it in the following areas

• Blenheim
• Napier
• Wellington
• Taranaki
• Hawkes Bay including Hastings
• New Plymouth
• Masterton
• Feilding
• Kuratau Northwest of Turangi
• Whanganui
• Waitomo
• Taupo
• Paraparaumu
• Palmerston North
• Waiouru
• Taumarunui
• Dannevirke

One Pongaroa resident who lives a few kilometres north of the town said it was a "pretty good one".

He was on the phone when the earthquake hit.

"There was a bit of a rattle, then a real good bang and then it just tailed off."

He says earthquakes were a regular occurrence in the area, but this one was certainly bigger than usual.

"We get a few little ones from time to time, but not that big."

Andrew Reitemeyer, also from Pongaroa, was getting ready for bed when everything started shaking.

His house is located roughly forty kilometres from the earthquakes epi-centre.

"It was quite long, about twenty or thirty seconds," he says. "It came in two phases, things started to build up, slow down, then it got really strong."

He says quite a few things were rattled and some things fell off shelves.

"There was no major damage though."

He says it's the strongest earthquake he's felt in his two years living in the town.

Peter Te Rangi said he felt it strongly in Palmerston North while Paul O'Shaughnessy described it as Short and sharp in Te Awanga Hawkes Bay.

Napier resident Kay Noel said it "continued for a good 8 seconds".

A Havelock North resident said "it went for 30-40 seconds swaying the curtains. Glass flexed in the window frames. Low frequency noise".

John Booth, the Mayor of Carterton District, said the earthquake "Gave the old farm house a good rock and roll,feel like I'm on a boat".

Doug Drummond said "We are in takapau wow strong it was!! I jumped out of bed and panicked checked son and under doorway".

Dave Hastie, manager of the Whakataki Hotel, which is located several kilometres south of where the quake was centred, was sitting in the pub at the time.

He initially thought it was just a blustery wind.

"It was one of the better ones," he says. "I thought of dashing outside."

Mr Hastie says it was pretty short-lived and only lasted about 30 seconds.

Jill Wilson said she was in a 9 storey apt block in Wellington when the quake struck.

"Was lying on my bed when it started. It wasn't a jolt, just a long slow rolling one - which had the wardrobe doors slowly moving in and out on their hinges. Main feature was that it seemed to last quite a long time."

Samantha Greene was at home, some ten kilometres east of where the earthquake was centred when it struck.

She says a few things have moved around and fallen off the shelves.

But she says the pub, which her father owns, at the Pongaroa hotel, remains unscathed.

""Everything's pretty spic and span."

A worker at the Pak'nSave in Palmerston North said a few people had felt the earthquake.

But she says neither the stock nor the store suffered any damage.

Twitter users have reported feeling the quake in main centres throughout the lower and central North Island, including Palmerston North, Wellington, Napier and Whanganui.

Deborah Russell in Palmerston North tweeted: "Whoah! Rocking and rolling in Palmerston North. The house seemed to keep on swaying forever. #eqnz"

Labour MP Grant Robertson said: "definite #eqnz in Wellington."

Twitter user @IslandBayGirl said: "was pretty gentle but definitely a quake... #eqnz"

Also in Palmerston North, Jono Hale said: "Massive quake in PN! Whole house shock and rattled! #eqnz"

Rachel Stewart tweeted: "Long and wobbly in Whanganui #eqnz".

Tracie Almond said: "Heart rate gradually returning to normal after that creaky quake just felt in Wellington."

Where is Pongaroa

Pongaroa is a small town in the Tararu District, part of the Manawatu-Wanganui region.

The town lies 110km southwest of Hastings and about 200km northeast of Wellington.

The village itself has a population of about 100 while the surrounding farms bring the local population up to some 300.