60 little sirens to warn of tsunami

By John Cousins

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Lots of little electronic sirens will warn Mount Maunganui and Papamoa residents of an incoming tsunami - instead of a few great big howlers.

The council yesterday refused to budge from the progress it had made towards selecting a tsunami warning system for Tauranga's vulnerable low-lying suburbs - despite pressure that the most efficient and least costly system was a modern version of the traditional air-raid siren.

With one supplier left on its shortlist, the council yesterday authorised the contractor to design the system and put it through the resource consent process. The council would then authorise installation of about 60 sirens.

The council was told the shortlist was reduced from three to two when the manufacturer of an air-raid styled siren was dropped from contention because he did not want to design the system or get resource consent for it and was "not particularly interested" in doing the installation.

From two contractors left, one was eliminated when tests at Papamoa of its electronic sirens failed to match noise claims.

The remaining contractor on the shortlist also used an electronic siren, which city engineer Howard Severinsen assured the council he was very confident about.

They were already in use elsewhere in New Zealand and some councillors and staff had travelled to a coastal town north of Auckland to hear how it sounded.

Council member Bill Grainger was one of a handful of councillors who unsuccessfully argued for the traditional air-raid siren.

He said Omokoroa's fire brigade still used an old-style siren and it could be heard for miles, whereas there was a risk that an electronic siren would not be heard.

"People want to hear it if something drastic is coming in."

Mr Severinsen said that whatever system was used, some people would not hear the sirens. A much tighter spacing of the electronic sirens was being looked at.

Cr Larry Baldock said it was time to take the advice of staff and set up the sirens: "Otherwise we will still be talking about it when the tsunami arrives."

Cr David Stewart said it had been a robust process and councillors had chosen a cost-effective and proven system used by most, if not all, local authorities in New Zealand.

He defended the need to apply for resource consent to install the sirens, saying neighbours to the sirens had rights.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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