It was one interjection that couldn't be ignored - a large aftershock has rattled Parliament as Finance Minister Bill English spoke about the Kaikoura earthquake recovery.

English was answering a question when the 5.6 magnitude aftershock was felt. It rattled and shook buildings in the Parliamentary precinct, including the press gallery.

After pausing, English was asked a follow-up question, and said, "this time I'll be more careful about what I say".

All questions put to Government ministers in question time today relate to the earthquakes and recovery process.


Earlier each party leader delivered a statement.

Prime Minister John Key said two people had died and their families were grieving, and others were still without power and had damaged homes.

"It is a reminder to always be prepared. My message to those communities is the rest of New Zealand is standing beside you."

Key thanked everyone who had responded quickly to the disaster, including world leaders and governments including the United States and Japan.

"New Zealand is prone to earthquakes. But with each quake we have improved our response, and you have seen that again in the last 36 hours.

"As Prime Minister I rarely feel a greater sense of pride or see our national character and resolve as clearly on display as in times of crises. As a country we are known for our resilience, our generosity and our willingness to pick ourselves up and carry on, even in the most trying of times. It is a credit to all Kiwis.

"To those New Zealanders and our international visitors in affected areas, you have my absolute assurance that we are doing and everything we can to support you."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the earthquake was unusual in that most of the country experienced sizeable tremors.

His own home in Wellington's Island Bay was within the tsunami zone, and he reluctantly evacuated early on Monday morning.

His son had to sit an NCEA science exam later that day, as did thousands of others around the country. Little questioned the "consistency" of the decision-making that meant exams weren't postponed.

The overall response would also be reviewed, Little said, but from what he saw it had been "very, very good".

"The forces that collapsed entire cliff faces, ripped apart roads...were truly awesome forces."

During a flying visit to Kaikoura with the Prime Minister yesterday, Little said the immediate response of locals he had met was to "take the situation in their stride", and check on elderly neighbours and stranded tourists.

"Kiwis rose to the occasion and expressed the best of Kiwi values...we look forward to working with the Government to support and sustain communities most affected by this disaster."