The owner of an iconic beach-side Four Square closest to this morning's 5.8 magnitude earthquake said the shake was nothing compared to the Christchurch earthquake.

Frank Taylor, who has owned the popular Waitarere Beach Four Square for more than 20 years, was in a unique position to judge earthquakes, having been on holiday in Christchurch when the big one hit in 2011.

He still remembers stepping outside to see a big concrete wave during the Christchurch earthquake, so the Levin quake was a little rattle in comparison.

"I lost a bottle of mayonnaise off the shelf. That's about it," he said.

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"It wasn't a problem."

The earthquake this morning struck at 7.53am. After initial reports the quake was 25km northwest of Levin, Geonet later revised the quake's depth at 34 km, with a centre 30km northwest of Levin.

Waitarere Beach Four Square's Frank Tylor.
Waitarere Beach Four Square's Frank Tylor.

Taylor said the earthquake struck as a group of more than 20 school children were waiting outside the convenience store for the school bus to take them to either college and primary school.

"They wait inside the shop when it's cold," he said.

As it was raining, all the schoolchildren were inside the store at the time. While there was no doubt there was an earthquake, he said they were all fairly subdued and just waited for the shaking to stop.

"No-one was screaming put it that way," he said.

The quake has been felt as far north as Gisborne and near the bottom of the South Island, according to Geonet.

More than 22,500 people had reported feeling the quake by 8am. Almost 100 said it felt "severe" while 10 said it felt "extreme."

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A number of aftershocks have occurred in the area as well.

All are being categorised as "weak" earthquakes on the GeoNet website. The latest reported a 3.7 magnitude quake 30km north-west of Levin at a depth of 31km.