Recovery efforts continued in New Zealand on Thursday after Cyclone Gabrielle caused havoc across the North Island leaving at least five people dead, displacing 9,000 and causing significant damage.

Gabrielle, which reached New Zealand on Sunday before making its way down the east coast of the North Island, cut off entire towns, washed away farms, bridges and livestock, and inundated homes, stranding people on rooftops.

Communication and access to a number of areas remains difficult and surveillance flights are being undertaken to see what's happening and identify those who may be isolated.

New Zealand Police on Thursday said they were investigating the death of a person in Gisborne, who was believed to have been caught in flood waters.

The Waiohiki bridge on the Tutaekuri River in Napier was washed away

Four other deaths have already been confirmed and police have grave concerns for several other missing people.

Kiri Allan, a member of parliament for one of the badly affected regions, told 1News that the priority was getting aid to cut-off communities.

"There are many, many homes that are going to be out of action for a long time. We are dealing with the imminent needs of those whanau (families) there. Basic things like bedding and where they're going to sleep tonight," Allan said.

Parts of New Zealand's North Island, where about 75% of the country's 5 million residents live, are enduring their second major storm in as many weeks. Record rains last month triggered flash floods in Auckland and four people lost lives then.

Authorities estimate more than 9,000 people have been displaced so far, with around 3,000 housed in temporary shelters.

Residents in Taradale clean up silt following flood waters after Cyclone Gabrielle

Meteorological service Met Service said Cyclone Gabrielle is now east of the country and continuing to track away from the North Island.

However, it said thunderstorms might hit badly affected areas Hawke's Bay and Tairawhiti on Thursday afternoon.

A state of emergency has been declared in New Zealand

Meanwhile, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck New Zealand near Wellington at a depth of 48km, government seismic monitor Geonet said.

The earthquake's epicentre was 50km from the town of Paraparaumu, according to Geonet.

Witnesses reported a strong shaking that lasted several seconds in the capital of Wellington.