Map of the seismic activity near Wellington, New Zealand, on May 24
© USGS
Map of the seismic activity near Wellington, New Zealand, on May 24.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was rattled live on television during a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Wellington.

The strong Monday morning earthquake was centred 30km north west of Levin, a town around an hour's drive north of the New Zealand capital.

It was felt most sharply around the South Taranaki Bight, and the closest major town, Wellington, some 100 kilometres south.

Tens of thousands of Kiwis reported feeling weak rattling as far north as Auckland and as far south as Dunedin.

In the capital, it brought sustained shaking for around 15 seconds as Kiwis prepared for their day at 7.53am NZST (5.53am AEST).

The earthquake was 37km deep according to seismic monitoring agency GScience.


Ardern was being interviewed in the executive government building known as "the Beehive" for its distinctive shape, live on on television channel Three, when it hit.

"We're just having a bit of an earthquake here ... quite a decent shake here. If you see things moving behind me," she said.

The camera shot shakes as Ardern looks around to judge her safety.

"The Beehive moves a little more than most."

"It's just stopped. No, we're fine. I'm not under any hanging lights, I look like I'm in a structurally sound place."

Ardern was discussing the appropriateness of her fiance, Clarke Gayford, building a new shed.

"The last thing we need is another shed for Clarke. He has two," she said.

New Zealand lies on the seismically active "Ring of Fire", a 40,000km arc of volcanoes and ocean trenches girdling much of the Pacific Ocean.

The National Emergency Management Agency quickly ruled out the threat of tsunami.

Wellington councillor Fleur Fitzsimons claimed a strange coincidence during the rumble.

"Eek, on the phone to the Mayor talking about earthquake strengthening the Central Library when that earthquake hit! #eqnz #Wellington," she wrote on Twitter.

Another Twitter user, Jords, compared the quake with coronavirus.

"I believe after earthquake and plague, the next one is frogs #EQNZ," he wrote.

Reuters