The shallow quake struck 25km south of Gisborne just before 1pm. It was widely felt in Whakatāne, which is still reeling from the volcanic eruption.
It was 29km deep and felt as far afield as Cambridge, Hunterville, Dannevirke and even Wellington.
Geonet says the earthquake is not related to the White Island eruption and has confirmed it did not trigger a tsunami. Police said there had not yet been any reports of injuries or damage.
Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said it was a "generous shake" - some shops had reported stock falling off the shelves, and some traffic jams.
She felt her car shaking while sitting in traffic, but it's over now and they'll have a damage assessment in about an hour.
Craig Little, mayor of nearby Wairoa, in Hawke's Bay, described the earthquake as a "beauty" saying it was quite severe and long.
"We were just having a Civil Defence meeting so we had the right people in the room if anything went wrong, but all good. Wairoa certainly felt it."