It was felt in Wellington, Nelson, Marlborough, Manawatu and Taranaki and there were also several aftershocks.
READ MORE: Magnitude 5.7 quake hits central New Zealand
Office workers in Wellington were shocked by the severe rumble just after 9am which saw high–rise buildings shake and people get under their desks for shelter.
Michael Law, otter case a business analyst in Wellington, was working on the twelfth floor of the Vogel building in the justice department said it was the first earthquake he had ever felt.
He said: “When the earthquake hit us it was a complete shock. It went on for a good minute and was very scary.
“The building was swaying and that was not nice at all. Everyone immediately got under their desks.
“There was quite a lot of hysteria because we all think back to Christchurch. It was pretty scary.”
Adding to the drama in the capital was a fire that broke out in the library of Victoria University.
Students and workers were evacuated and the blaze was dealt with by the fire service swiftly.
Seddon resident Haylee Lewis, 27, said the shake was ‘really frightening’ and she jumped out of bed when she felt the rumbling just after 9am.
The part-time cleaner said: “I have lived down here for a year so am used to a few shakes but this was the worst one by far.
“I was really scared and jumped out of bed to make sure everyone in the house was ok. It woke me up and I just didn’t know what to do fr4 pcb.
“You end up just standing there for a few seconds wondering what is the best thing to do, whether to leave the house or stay put.
“My partner is from Auckland he was pretty scared because that was the first one he has ever experienced.
“Our televisions and clocks were all shaking and rattling. We have had a few little aftershocks since the big one, label sticker hopefully that will be it for now.”
Aucklander Terry Williams King, 37, a group sales manager for Bauer Media, was on a business trip in Wellington for the week when the quake struck when he was eating his breakfast.
He said: ‘I was on the eighth floor of the Copthorne Hotel which was an interesting place to be. We all heard a huge rumble and it sounded like a jet plane taking off because we are near the airport and then the shaking started.
“It only lasted 20 to 25 seconds and everyone just sat there looking at each other thinking, is it an earthquake?
“It was the worst shake I have ever felt. Everyone was ok but it was quite frightening.”