Tsunami evacuation information board at Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui. Photo / Georges Novak
Tauranga will not have tsunami sirens in the event of a natural disaster.
The question of whether or not Tauranga City Council should invest in a network of tsunami sirens along the district’s coastline has been raised
at a board meeting on Tuesday.
The council committee voted against the idea, opting instead to focus on tsunami education, outreach and support for vulnerable community networks.
The decision was recommended by council staff, who said in a report that most of the community feedback received during the consultation as part of the amendment to the long-term plan and the 2022/23 annual plan was d ‘deal.
In her report to council, emergency management officer Paula Naude said 78 per cent of 626 submissions were in favor of the council continuing to invest in education and awareness. Twenty-two percent preferred installing tsunami sirens, which would have cost $3.9 million, plus an additional $209,000 a year to operate.
Alert mechanisms already available for Tauranga included national emergency mobile alerts and the Red Cross hazard app, as well as cellular network, social media platforms and radio and TV coverage, Naude said. .
“Ongoing research to monitor any emerging alert mechanisms or lessons learned from regional and international events will also be implemented to ensure that Tauranga City’s alert mechanisms continue to meet current standards and best practices” , she said.
The council’s chief regulatory and compliance officer, Barbara Dempsey, told the meeting there was plenty of scientific evidence to show sirens weren’t necessarily effective.
“We are very supportive of where the consultation landed,” she said.
“We have a lot of examples from overseas that [sirens] let people down.”
Dempsey said the best warning system of all was “natural” – if someone living near the coast felt a deep earthquake, they should evacuate.
Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley agreed and said that if people relied on being told to leave, “it might be too late, especially in low-lying areas.”
Commissioner Shadrach Rolleston said the council should campaign to ensure the community knew how to act and react.
In 2021, the council launched a Tsunami Awareness Project aimed at educating the community on their role in preparing for, responding to and surviving a tsunami.
Information provided in the council’s report indicated that it could take between 40 and 75 minutes before Tauranga could make an informed decision on whether to issue an evacuation order.
The most devastating tsunami would take between 50 and 60 minutes to arrive after the initial earthquake.
The National Emergency Management Agency says on its website that a locally sourced tsunami could arrive within minutes, meaning there would be no time for an official warning. That’s why it was important to recognize the natural warning signs and act quickly.
Know the Natural Warning Signs and Take Action
If you’re near a shoreline and experience any of the following issues, take action – don’t wait for official warnings:
– Feel a strong earthquake that makes you unable to stand or a long earthquake that lasts more than a minute
– See a sudden rise or fall in sea level
– Listen for loud or unusual sounds from the sea
– Drop, cover and hold while shaking. Protect yourself from the earthquake first.
– As soon as the shaking stops, move immediately to the nearest higher ground, out of all tsunami evacuation areas, or as far inland as possible.
– Remember: Long or hard, go.
Source – National Emergency Management Agency