Air sirens campaign goes on

By John Cousins

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Tauranga City councillor Bill Grainger has not given up hope that traditional air-raid sirens will be chosen to warn Mount Maunganui and Papamoa residents of an incoming tsunami.

He is pinning his hopes on mustering up enough political support to force a review into installing six or seven big air-raid sirens, instead of the 60 smaller electronic sirens favoured by most councillors.

Cr Grainger disputed that Meerkat Alert Systems had been selected as the official installer of the emergency sirens, saying a final decision was still months away.

The council last month authorised Meerkat to design the system and put it through a resource consent process.

The final step in the process, which Cr Grainger was hoping would allow time for a change of heart, would be the decision to authorise the installation of the Meerkat sirens.

"It has to come back to the council to make sure that all the boxes have been ticked. The council has to finally sign off on the contract," he said.

Cr Grainger remained unconvinced that Meerkat offered the best solution for Tauranga's vulnerable low-lying suburbs.

He wants the council to reconsider the less costly system, involving a modern version of the traditional air-raid siren.

He said it was about one-tenth of the cost and also represented big savings in long-term maintenance. He believed that the Wellington manufacturer Tactical Tooling should be given the chance to test its sirens in Tauranga.

"Air-raid sirens were more effective than electronic sirens and could penetrate buildings. When you hear them, you can't mistake them. Weighing up the pros and cons, I don't want to see 60 electronic alarms mounted on poles."

City engineer Howard Severinsen said Cr Grainger was technically correct in saying that the final decision had yet to be made. Meerkat Alert Systems had been appointed to carry out engineering design and consenting for the proposed system.

Once this work was done, it would come back to the council for a decision, including whether the council could get external funding.

Mr Severinsen said the council could make a decision not to proceed at all. In the meantime, he was working to make sure that the system deployed by Tauranga matched the system planned to be used by the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

He said he did not like wasting public money if something designed and consented ended up not being built. Meerkat has installed sirens in Auckland, Rodney, Christchurch, Timaru and Northland. "It falls into step with what other parts of New Zealand are doing," Mr Severinsen said earlier this week.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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