The quake's epicentre was 35 km (22 miles) southeast of St Arnaud, a small town in the north of the country's South Island, at a depth of 62 km (13 miles), according to Geonet's website.

There were no initial reports of damage or injury.

Earthquakes are common in New Zealand, whose two islands lie along the Australia-Pacific tectonic plate boundary.

A shallow 6.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the South Island's Canterbury region in 2011, resulting in nearly 200 deaths and levelling Christchurch, the country's second largest city.

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