New Zealand

New Zealand downgrades tsunami warnings after three earthquakes off the coast

Residents of Northland, East Cape and Great Barrier Island have been told to move to higher ground. (AAP)

Australia had issued a marine tsunami threat for Norfolk Island, a small territory with about 1,750 residents, but said there was no threat to the mainland.

New Zealand has downgraded its tsunami threat level, with the largest waves passing, its National Emergency Management agency says in its latest update.

"All people who evacuated can now return," it said.

Thousands of New Zealanders on the east coast of the country's North Island were evacuated to higher ground after three offshore earthquakes triggered tsunami sirens and warnings on Friday.

Workers, students and residents in areas like Northland and Bay of Plenty were assisted by civil defence officials as authorities said tsunami waves could reach three metres above tide levels.

There were no reports of damage or casualties from the quakes.

The most recent quake had a magnitude of 8.1 and struck the Kermadec Islands, northeast of New Zealand's North Island. This came shortly after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in the same region.

Earlier, a large 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck about 900 kilometres away on the east of the North Island.

New Zealand's National Emergency Management Agency said the first waves would arrive on New Zealand's north shores by about 9.45 am local time (11.45 am AEDT).

It said areas under threat were from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane and Opotiki, and the Great Barrier Island.

"We want everyone to take this threat seriously. Move to high ground," Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai told state broadcaster TVNZ.

Warnings were also issued for Pacific islands like Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii and others.

Australia issued a marine tsunami threat for Norfolk Island, a tiny territory with about 1750 residents, but said there was no threat to the mainland.

Norfolk Island residents in areas threatened by land inundation or flooding were advised to go to higher ground or inland, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Residents were also told to get out of the water and move away from the water's edge at beaches, marinas, coastal estuaries and rock platforms.

Chile said it could experience a minor tsunami.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck off the east of New Zealand's North Island was felt by more than 60,000 people across the country with many describing the shaking as "severe".

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