The magnitude 6.0 quake struck just before 07:00 local time (18:00 GMT on Monday) near Arthur’s Pass, about 100km (63 miles) west of Christchurch.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
It was one of the strongest quakes in New Zealand since Christchurch in 2011 when 185 people were killed.
Much of downtown Christchurch was destroyed and the city is still rebuilding.
New Zealand natural hazard monitoring service GeoNet classed Tuesday morning’s quake as “severe” and happening at a depth of 5km. BBC News – Strong quake hits New Zealand’s Christchurch.