Defence Force helicopters have so far airlifted around 200 people from Kaikoura and a state of emergency now covers the entire Canterbury region.
The navy's multi-role vessel Canterbury is due to arrive off the coast of Kaikoura on Wednesday as the effort to evacuate stranded tourists and residents steps up following Monday's massive quake.
Around 200 people had been flown out of the town by New Zealand Defence Force helicopters by last light on Tuesday and the flights are due to resume on Wednesday morning with around 1000 still needing to leave.
Those taken to Christchurch included two babies who were among 11 campers at Kaikoura's Goose Bay campground.
Tourists are airlifted via NH90 helicopters. Photo: Getty
THe HMNZS Canterbury is due to arrive off the coast at around 9am following the arrival of the HMNZS Wellington and the HMNZS Te Kaha and tanker ship, HMNZS Endeavour will also be sent.
Four NH90 helicopters have been delivering aid supplies and ferrying people out of the quake zone after the magnitude-7.5 tremor.
Three warships from the United States, Canada and Australia will also be assisting the relief effort and the US has offered two helicopters to be used as required.
"The local state of emergency was declared across the Canterbury region to mobilise the collective force of the region," Sarah Stuart-Black, director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said on Tuesday.
"This supersedes the local states of emergency in Kaikoura and Hurunui."
The NZ Airforce evacuates tourists form Kaikoura. Photo: Getty
Ms Stuart-Black said food and water supplies were being distributed to communities where they were most needed.
"By night they will be going door-to-door to check on households," she said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Defence Minister and acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the evacuees were taken to Christchurch where local authorities helped tourists make accommodation arrangements.
"The four New Zealand NH90 helicopters have been evacuating people and bringing in supplies on each flight," he said.
He said authorities had not yet confirmed the total number of people displaced by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and subsequent landslides.
But "essential supplies such as water, food, diesel equipment and personnel and oxygen for the local hospital have all reached Kaikoura today", he said.
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"At this stage, it's hoped the inland route to Kaikoura, from the south, through Waiau will be cleared and reopened by the weekend."
"This is heavily dependent on weather conditions ... and the magnitude and frequency of aftershocks."
"Cell phone and landline coverage in Kaikoura is improving and providers are co-ordinating well, but services are not yet at 100 per cent."
"USAR teams are on the ground in Waiau and Kaikoura and a further 10 police personnel have arrived in Kaikoura."