Earthquake rocks New Zealand

A sizeable earthquake has struck the lower half of New Zealand's North Island.

The US Geological Survey said the 6.2 magnitude quake struck about 3.52pm (1.52pm AEDT), 34km south-south-east of Palmerston North at a depth of 28km.

The quake was widely felt in Wellington.

A police central communications spokesman said no major damage was reported in the city.

A giant eagle suspended from the ceiling at Wellington Airport came down during the tremor. Nobody was hurt in the incident, an airport spokesman said. The area was cordoned off.

"It's just resting there, it's all completely intact."

Wellington regional civil defence controller Bruce Pepperell says other than the fallen eagle at the airport, he has received no other reports of damage in his area.

Karen Monks of Masterton tweeted this picture of the contents of her pantry.

Karen Monks of Masterton tweeted this picture of the contents of her pantry.

"There’s been limited damage in Palmerston North and lower Hawke’s Bay with the odd chimney and things like that," he said.

"Other than giving us a really good rattle, there’s no damage south of Eketahuna that I’m aware of."

Heather Gowans and her partner Adrian Tutauha live in Solway, Masterton, about 40km from the quake centre.

"It was really shaking and rolling - it went on for about 30 seconds. Adrian ran to grab the flat screen TV just in time. It just kept going and going and was swaying really bad. Everything was swaying and the place was creaking and groaning - but luckily nothing is broken."

William Lane, 57, of Palmerston North, said: "We were just standing talking to my partner in the hall, and we got a good fright actually.

"I've been around for quite awhile and that'd be by far the biggest one I've felt."

Mr Lane said his dog was running in circles, his pictures were knocked askew and he felt his house buckle during the quake. He and his partner were almost knocked off their feet, he said.

Hundreds of shoppers in Lower Hutt's Queensgate Mall were evacuated following the quake, which left people screaming and ducking for cover as items fell from shelves.

Dollar drops

The New Zealand dollar dropped after the quake, falling as much as 0.3 per cent to 82.32 US cents, the least since January 10. It traded at 82.39 US cents at 4.10pm local time.

New Zealand sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanic and quake activity that circles the Pacific Ocean.

Wellington's city centre was temporarily closed after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck on July 21 last year, blowing out windows, throwing goods from store shelves and sending people running from buildings.

A magnitude 6.3 quake in February 2011 in the South Island city of Christchurch killed 185 people, the nation's deadliest in eight decades.

Fairfax NZ, wires