New Zealand has been rocked by a magnitude 7.4 quake that struck off the country's coastline.

Thousands of Kiwis reported feeling the quake, and some residents on the country's eastern coastline were ordered to evacuate to higher ground as a precaution.

Kiwis on Twitter described being awoken by the 'gentle' and slow moving quake shortly before 1am.

Emergency authorities monitoring for any signs of tsunami have said there is no threat and said anyone who evacuated can return home.

Seismic hazard monitor GeoNet described the shaking as 'weak.'

The quake struck near the Kermadec Islands, about 710km off Gisborne, on the east coast of the North Island.

Gisborne, New Zealand
The quake struck hundreds of kilometres off the shore of Gisborne, on New Zealand's northeast coast

The National Emergency Management Authority earlier said it was assessing whether the tremor could have created a tsunami that could affect New Zealand.

It has since updated advice to say there is no risk of tsunami, and has advised residents not to evacuate the east coast.

The authority tweeted: "We will provide an update as soon as the initial assessment has been completed."

National broadcaster Radio New Zealand is reporting that emergency authorities are advising residents living along the top of the east coast who felt the shake 'long and strong' to evacuate and move to higher ground.

Civil Defence is reportedly issuing the order as a precaution as the national emergency body and GNS assess the tsunami risk to New Zealand.

The quake struck at 12.49am Friday, local time.

GeoNet said it was likely felt in the east coast areas of Gisborne, Matawai, Opotiki, Ruatoria, Te Araroa, Te Kaha, Tokomaru Bay, Tolaga Bay, Whakaari/White Island, Whakatane, and Whitianga.

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New Zealand is struck by thousands of quakes a year.

Its seismically-active isles sit on the Pacific's 'Ring of Fire' composed of volcano and earthquake hotspots.

Offshore quakes in the waters surrounding the south Pacific nation routinely prompt tsunami risk assessments.

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