A Civil Defence training website appears to be at fault for sending out a false alarm for a quake.

The accidental "bum tweet" sent the country into a moment of panic this afternoon - claiming a possible tsunami threat from an earthquake in the Kermadec Islands.

Ministry Director Sarah Stuart-Black says her initial understanding is their training site was being used when the alert was sent out.

"It seems the message was sent out publicly from that training site, so that's what we're looking into: why did that occur when we were in the training site? It should have been retained within the site."

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"The training site is separate from the live site, so we can keep our staff trained and confident to send out a real alert when a real emergency arises."

"I'd like to apologise for any confusion or alarm that message created. I'm hoping it won't happen again."