A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has rattled the Gisborne area and around the east cape, including near the scene of yesterday's White Island eruption.

The shallow quake struck 25km south of Gisborne just before 1pm. It was widely felt in Whakatāne, which is still reeling from the volcanic eruption.

It was 29km deep and felt as far afield as Cambridge, Hunterville, Dannevirke and even Wellington.

Geonet says the earthquake is not related to the White Island eruption and has confirmed it did not trigger a tsunami. Police said there had not yet been any reports of injuries or damage.

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Gisborne has had a further magnitude 2.8 shake at 4.17pm today causing weak shaking.

A school in Gisborne called the earlier shake a "biggie".

A notice on Te Kura o te Muriwai school said: "That was a biggie. There was some movement of resources and no damage, but otherwise all good. Tamariki and staff all accounted for."

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said it was a "generous shake" - some shops had reported stock falling off the shelves, and some traffic jams.

She felt her car shaking while sitting in traffic, but it's over now and they'll have a damage assessment in about an hour.

Craig Little, mayor of nearby Wairoa, in Hawke's Bay, described the earthquake as a "beauty" saying it was quite severe and long.

"We were just having a Civil Defence meeting so we had the right people in the room if anything went wrong, but all good. Wairoa certainly felt it."

Gisborne locals have reported the quake to be strong enough to tip over bookshelves.

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"It was a scary one - rolling and jolting for what seemed like about a minute," Marianne Gillingham said.

William Wilson said it felt much stronger than the 5.3 magnitude reported by authorities.

A GNS Science public alert said it may have been felt in Gisborne, Mātāwai , Tolaga Bay, Wairoa and other surrounding areas.

Gisborne District Council issued an alert on its social media pages asking: "Did you feel that one? Hope you did 'drop, cover, hold'."

Locals commenting on the council's Facebook page reported feeling it strongly around the city.

"Kōpua Hill rocked!" one said.

"Yes - I felt that. Very freaky," another wrote.

Another weak earthquake has struck 10km south of Whanganui, on the other side of the island.

The 3.1 magnitude quake struck at a depth of 23km at 1.39pm and caused mild shaking.