The British High Commissioner says rescued Britons have expressed their thanks to the New Zealand defence forces and the people of Kaikoura.

Jonathan Sinclair, who met the 100 or so Britons trapped by Monday's quake when the Canterbury docked in Lyttelton this morning, said the passengers were bussed to the arena where they were registered and sent to tables for accommodation around the city.

Officials were on hand to help with travel or insurance issues.

He said everyone praised the efforts of the defence forces, but special praise was reserved for the quake-hit Kaikoura locals who had opened their doors to strangers.

"A handful obviously have been a bit shook up by the earthquake but what's striking overall is the admiration and praise for everybody in Kaikoura for the care they showed and they looked after the foreigners in their midst."

He said the vast majority of Brits wanted to continue their holidays.