A severe magnitude 5.3 earthquake rocked central New Zealand overnight.

The quake, centred 20km southwest of Seddon, struck at 12.17am.

It was just 13km deep and felt widely across the country.

So far there have been no reports of injury or damage.

It has been described as a short, violent quake that shook homes in the dead of night and set hearts racing.

More than 6300 people from Auckland to Invercargill reported feeling the quake.

Most reports were located in the lower half of the North Island and top of the South Island.

The Fire Service said there had been no calls for help following the quake, which the government geoscience research GeoNet described as severe.

But those nearest the epicentre took immediate action when the Earth started moving.

Ward resident Jody Vanessa Edwards posted on Facebook that once the house started shaking, her family and others in the small South Island settlement bolted to safety.

“[We] grabbed the kids and were on way outside. A few bottles fell over. Will check the already cracked house tomorrow.”

A scout leader at the national scout jamboree in Blenheim said he could hear it coming before it struck.

“We could hear something outside,” Northland scout leader Steve told NewstalkZB.

“The bed was shaking, the building was shaking and there was a bit of a rumbling sound.”

He described it as a good shake that resulted in nothing more than frayed nerves.

Elsewhere people said they heard the quake approaching in the dead of night before it struck.

Hone Henare posted on Facebook:” Felt in Mt Cook. Heard it coming, then the house rolled an rocked. Was in the middle of reading about the 1855 quake.”

Chloe Young described it as a short but violent quake.

“Felt that in Island Bay, Wellington. Heard it coming first (never hear them) and then bang the entire room started shaking, was short but strong!”

Posted Gemma Crouch-Gatehouse: “Island Bay had a good shake. Heard it coming first thought some one was running round up stairs.”

Mae Phillips was one of many who were asleep when it struck.

“Ooooooooo woke me up not good.”