Aftershocks have been rolling in through the night after a severe quake rocked the lower North Island on Monday - and GeoNet has warned the shakes could continue for weeks.

The 24km-deep quake struck 15km east of Pongaroa, on the east coast near the border between Wairarapa and Manawatu, about 9pm on Monday.

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5.8 earthquake in lower North Island

Houses swayed and items shook off shelves but there have been no reports of serious damage.

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It was felt by more than 5000 people from as far away as Auckland and Invercargill, GeoNet said.

And a series of aftershocks may have meant a sleepless night for many.

There have been more than 10 smaller shakes felt through the night about 15km east of Pongaroa since 9pm - with some getting up to "moderate" intensity, according to GeoNet.

The latest aftershock was recorded about 5.30am. It had a magnitude of 2.8 and was 19km deep.

One of the aftershocks was felt by about 130 people about 11pm.

GeoNet scientists Caroline Little said there had been "a few foreshocks" earlier in the day, with the largest being a magnitude-3.8 quake in the same location.

She said within the first 35 minutes of the 5.8 quake there were almost 4000 felt reports coming in from much of the North Island.

The Ministry of Civil Defence said there was no tsunami threat after the quake.

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Residents in Pongaroa said the quake lasted about 30 seconds and was a shuddering, rolling earthquake.

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

He initially thought it was just a blustery wind and said it lasted about 30 seconds.

"It was one of the better ones," he said.

"I thought of dashing outside."

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".

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.