New Zealand was struck by several large earthquakes on Tuesday, with a 5.7 magnitude quake jolting residents near Christchurch just hours after a 5.4 magnitude quake hit the east coast of the North Island.

The 5.7 magnitude quake was centred near Culverden in North Canterbury at a depth of 23 kilometres, earthquake monitoring agency GeoNet said.

Thousands of people reported feeling the severe shake, although there were no initial reports of damage.

It came five hours after a 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Hawke's Bay on the east coast of the North Island.

The tremors unsettled residents as they came days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the east coast of the South Island, killing two people.

The November 14 quake caused widespread damage to roads, bridges and railway lines, cutting off the town of Kaikoura, a popular base for whale watching tours.

New Zealand has experienced more than 4,000 earthquakes since then.

The earthquakes on Tuesday coincided with a 7.4 magnitude earthquake striking off the coast of Japan, resulting in a tsunami alert and forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

A senior seismologist at Geoscience Australia, Hugh Glanville said the two quakes were not directly related.

"One did not cause the other, but [they] are both a result of shifts in the Pacific plate. The Pacific plate is the fastest moving ocean plate so earthquakes occur along the edges of the plate regularly."

"The earthquake activity we have seen over the last week is not unusual," he added.