Residents have been told they can return home after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake led to the issuing of a tsunami warning. The epicenter of the early morning tremor was about 130 kilometers off the North Island's east coast
Radio New Zealand reported that residents in coastal areas of the East Cape region had been advised by local civil defense officials to evacuate following the quake.
People from the town of Gisborne were told to move to higher ground or go as far inland as they could amid a prediction of a possible one-meter-high wave.
The evacuation order and tsunami warning were lifted after a few hours.
The earthquake struck at 4:37am (1637 UTC) and was felt over much of the country but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
North Island residents reported on Twitter being woken by shaking and local media said there were some power outages.
The Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management advised people to stay off the beaches via Twitter.
New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which form part of the so-called "Ring of Fire" and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.
In 2010, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck the South Island city of Christchurch, causing widespread damage but no loss of life.
On February 22, 2011 - less than six months later - a magnitude-6.3 quake struck the city, killing 185 people and wiping out much of the central business district and hundreds of homes and heritage buildings.
jbh, mm / gsw (AFP, dpa)