Magnitude 7.4 quake in New Zealand waters

Ben McKay

A major 7.4 magnitude earthquake in waters north-east of New Zealand's North Island has shaken residents but has not produced a tsunami.

The strength of the tremor, which was felt at 12:49am NZDT Friday, meant thousands of Kiwis reported the shake despite its epicentre around 700km from Gisborne in the Pacific Ocean.

The quake was shallow, just 33km deep.

NZ's civil defence agency clarified within an hour there was no tsunami threat, however "New Zealand coastal areas may experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore".

The earthquake occurred between the Australian and Pacific plates, with another 5.1 magnitude shake occurring further north in Tongan waters on Thursday night.

Earthquakes of this magnitude are common in New Zealand, sometimes known as the "shaky isles".

Last month, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake around 100km north of Wellington struck right as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was conducting a live television interview.