A Christchurch woman who moved to Australia's Northern Territory to escape earthquakes was given a shock when a magnitude 3.4 earthquake struck.

The earthquake rocked the Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek, home to Australia's largest earthquake on record.

The earthquake struck at 8:33pm on Monday about 40km southwest of the outback town, with a shallow depth of 12kms, Geoscience Australia said.

Data shows it was detected by seismic monitoring stations over 1000km away including in Buckleboo, South Australia and Coen in far north Queensland.


The usually arid town has experienced its wettest start to the year on record, having been flooded by drenching rains over the past two weeks, including 71mm of rain that fell in 70 minutes on Friday night.

Resident Anna Curtin, a 31-year-old nurse originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, told AAP she was sitting down to have dinner at home when the quake struck.

"It's been really stormy so I've been getting quite used to all of the horrific thunder and lightning," she said.

"But as I was sitting there, I thought that feeling feels all too familiar."

Curtin survived the devastating earthquake and aftershocks that rocked Christchurch in 2010 and 2011 - the latter claiming 185 lives - and moved to the NT last year thinking "this is great, no earthquakes".

"You can't even describe it, they're very violent and very sudden" she said.

"It kind of feels like a train is going past you really nearby, like a big sudden rumble of the earth.

"I think I feel a bit invincible now that I've survived all of those ones."


Geoscience Australia senior seismologist Jonathan Bathgate told AAP it is the second earthquake greater than magnitude 3.0 to hit Tennant Creek this year, with a 3.1 recorded on January 5.

He said the town recorded five earthquakes of that kind last year and nine in 2015.

"We didn't get any reports of anyone having felt this into our report system here in Canberra so it's not significant in that respect," Dr Bathgate said on Tuesday.

"That could be it for the year, we just don't know."

However he said future earthquake activity in the area was possible, given Tennant Creek's history.

The town was rocked by three earthquakes greater than magnitude 6 on January 22, 1988, while the largest of the three - a magnitude 6.6 tremor - remains Australia's biggest.