GNS scientist warns earthquake swarms could last 'for days or weeks' in Bay of Plenty

A number of earthquakes were felt around the country on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon, a magnitude 4.7 shake was widely felt in Waitaha - Canterbury as it struck near Akaroa.

However, the Eastern Bay of Plenty has had a day of it. There were more than 200 weak-to-moderate quakes near Whakatāne and Kawerau.

On Saturday, a shallow earthquake rocked the towns of Kawerau and Whakatāne at around 3:30am. But then just before 5am a magnitude 4.8 rumble also struck the Bay of Plenty towns. 

GNS Science recorded over 70 quakes over magnitude 3 on the Richter scale on Saturday morning alone. And they're still going.

"Swarms can last for days or for weeks and it's hard to know when it's going to end," GNS Science duty seismologist Elizabeth Abbott told Newshub.

"Since this morning our monitoring centre has located over 250 earthquakes many of which would have been felt by the public."

"When the earthquake hit I heard trees cracking and the whole side of the hill just started sliding down. It was pretty freaky that's for sure,"  one Kawerau local said.

In Kawerau's Hammer Hardware store the shelves were emptied by the earthquake.

Hammer Hardware store owner Murray Evans told Newshub he went to put them back but decided there was no point and decided to stack the shelves safely instead.

"It is frustrating that we can't do a total cleanup. It'll be happening tomorrow when all the rattle stop[s]," Evans said.

For some people, the earthquakes left damage that can never be mended as crockery lay shattered on the floor.

The ground slipped away on the hillsides near Kawerau and other roads were closed temporarily as more minor slips were checked.

Kawerau Mayor Faylene Tunui was woken just after 3am and felt the shakes throughout the day.

"At a guess and I haven't recorded it - a minimum of five earthquakes an hour," Tunui said.

In Whakatāne which is 25km away from the epicentre, locals told Newshub they were worried.

"It's a been a pretty hectic sort of a morning," one local said.

"I felt a big one it was supposed to be about 4.3 on the Richter scale," another said.

" [I was] nervous about everything falling over," a third said.

But Abbott said she doesn't believe it's a sign of a big quake to come. 

"It's unlikely that we'll get a bigger earthquake but we do live in the shaky isles in New Zealand so it's good to be prepared," Abbott said.

The experts said the earthquake swarms could continue for some days yet.