The quake came after a number of small earth tremors, with the main quake measuring six point eight on the richter scale, with its epicentre offshore in Cooks Strait.
There are unconfirmed reports of the collapse of a building in a small town on the coast of the South Island, as well as broken glass and the cancellation of public transport.
But as Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney reports this latest shake is just one of many which have hit the region in recent weeks.
Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speaker: Speaker:Vernon Small, the National Affairs Editor with Fairfax Media in New Zealand; Bruce Mackay Police Commander, Wellington; Trent Kandler, Wellington Local; Paul McCarthy, Wellington Local.
COONEY: For New Zealanders, Trent Kandler and Paul McCarthy, the first of a series of earthquakes which hit Welllington happened while being interviewed by Radio Australia's Phil Kafkaloudes.
TRENT KANDLER AND PAUL MCCARTHY: Car started shaking then, I apologise for our stuttering. The earthquake has hit us.
Wow, it hit us a little bit.
KAFCALOUDES: What, as we're talking?
TRENT KANDLER AND PAUL MCCARTHY: Yeah, we just had a tremor in the car. I'm so excited. I thought the car was falling, but a small tremor just hit beautiful Wellington while we're talking to you.
COONEY: That small shake was the first of many to hit New Zealand's capital on this day. Bigger ones were to come.
The geological report rated the major shake at 6.8 on the Richter scale, centred offshore in Cook Strait at a depth of ten kilometres, nearest to the townships of Marlborough Sound on the South Island and just 96 kilometres from Wellington.
Bruce MacKay was the on duty police commander in Wellington this morning.
MACKAY: Oh, we've had quite a few since that last one about 15 or more, so just while I was on the phone, the building has been in sort of perpetual motion.
COONEY: Also on duty at the Parliament House Press Gallery in the capital was National Affairs editor with Fairfax Media, Vernon Small.
SMALL: Yeah, well there's been a lot of aftershocks since and we're still feeling them. There was one about a 5-point something just a few minutes ago in here. We're in parliament, so we're on rubber foundations and we dance around a bit, but we're probably safer than most. But yeah, it was pretty scarey. We've had a few lately as you know. This is the strongest one I've felt. The other one I felt at home, which was a different part of town obviously.
Having lived here all my life, it doesn't bother me particularly. From our point of view, it's just a case of manning the phones and just getting all the units in the area to check on damage and working in codes with the Fire Service and Train control and people like that. The trains advise at the top of the South Island and sort of part of the lower North Island, they've have stopped the trains purely precautionary. They have to do a check there, so they're all going to be stopped for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the Fly On effect naturally have got people are going to be evacuated from buildings and have to go home and they're going to be stuck for awhile I think, so we're just sort of focusing on that at the moment.
The police have just let out a statement saying there's no significant damage. There's a few broken windows and the trains are out, so there's a bit of congestion on the streets, and a few people ran outside screaming and the usual kind of concerns and these things happen. A few people trapped in lifts have been cleared, but we seem to have escaped relatively unharmed I hope.
The damage we having is pretty superficial. We've got areas where glass has broken, falling glass, and obviously there's superficial building was damage within buildings, so we don't know the extent of that. It's not the big buildings falling over stuff though, so yeah, buildings might have to be closed for checks.
Really in context, when you put them next to the Christchurch ones, they're not really that big and they're very, very frightening and disturbing for people. Pretty obviously it was a fairly intense one and it's certainly got everyone's blood raising there.
COONEY: Bernard Small says while people are feeling a little shaken, no one's about to compare what happened to them to the major quake that devastated Christchurch.
SMALL: The earthquake in Christchurch was right underneath the city and it was a similar sort of magnitude to this one. This one was out in Cooks Strait, some way south of Wellington, so yeah, nowhere near as bad. There is a report of a house collapsing in Seddon, which is the small town very close to the epicentre on the South Island. But we haven't got the details through yet. We've got some Fairfax reporters heading there now.
COONEY: And as the damage is accessed and authorities look at what helps needed, people who live in the town Cook Strait, are preparing now for the next seismic event.
SMALL: The last time we had, I can't remember, only weeks back now, there were aftershocks went on for days and days and this one is similar.
I mean we've had it was 6.2 was the latest report was the main one, but we've had several over 5 already, It's like we get one every quarter-of-an-hour. It was an hour-and-a-half ago it started, so it's been shaking the whole time really.