The tiny Tararua town of Pongaroa was rocking and rolling last night with a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hitting just after 9pm.
With an epicentre 15 kilometres from the township and 24 km deep, the quake was felt over much of the lower North Island.
Geonet classified the quake as severe and said aftershocks continued through the night, the biggest coming just before 11pm measuring magnitude 4.4.
Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis said there were no immediate reports of damage but he said civil defence would be out checking infrastructure this morning.
"The civil defence manager rang and so far we haven't had any major reports of damage, but the boys will be out looking at things like bridges and so on this morning."
He said some damage reports may come in as people wake up and inspect their properties.
He said the aftershocks were strong, but felt more around Pongaroa rather than Dannevirke where he lived
"I've lived around here for 16 years but I've been through many an earthquake and we had that really big one in Eketahuna last year and there were quite a few shocks after that. But I don't think or would hope there would be anything as bad as that."
Guy Raleigh owns the Pongaroa Hotel and had just got into bed when the earthquake started last night.
"It was a goodie - my wife's been living up here 23 years in Pongaroa - we get quite a few of them but that's the best one I've felt for a very long time.
"Everything just started rumbling and rolling, and then a good shake, a lot of stuff, a lot of photos and bits and pieces falling around.
"It was pretty scary stuff... like a train going up the road really... just rumble, rumble, rumble," he said.
The quake was felt as far away as Whanganui, Napier and Wellington.
John McCormick, who lives in Waipukurau, about 100km north of Pongaroa, said there was two parts to the earthquake - a slow roll then a violent noise - and his whole house moved.
He said his house was not damaged but it was a "bloody good shake".
GNS Science said last night's earthquake was probably caused by the Australian and Pacific Plates pushing against each other.