Volcanoes greatest risk to this region

By John Cousins


Bay residents are more concerned about earthquakes and tsunamis than volcanoes, despite the fact they pose the most serious civil defence risk.

The significant disconnect between public perception and actual scientific data has been highlighted in a report issued by the Bay's Civil Defence emergency managers.

It said recent devastating earthquakes and tsunamis meant many Bay coastal communities had become increasingly concerned by the prospect of a tsunami.

This was despite volcanic eruptions easily topping the risk list of the Bay's high priority hazards by scoring 4.8, the only hazard to rank in the "major" category of seriousness.

No hazards reached a five or catastrophic risk.


The rest of the region's civil defence priorities were rated as moderate or minor risks. A moderate risk scored in the threes while a hazard ranked as minor scored in the twos.


"While a local tsunami is considered to be quite serious, a distant tsunami is rated 3.2 on the seriousness scale, which is relatively low," the report said.

A local tsunami was ranked 3.5, or third on the seriousness scale.

(Story continues below)


 


 


 


The second highest risk was flooding of the Rangitaiki River in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. It scored 3.8. Coastal storms, an animal disease epidemic, a human pandemic and rural fire were all ranked at 3.4.

A strong earthquake, which caused objects to fall from walls and shelves and slight non-structural damage, was ranked 3.3 on the seriousness scale.

That's the same ranking given to an earthquake on the North Island's fault line that destroyed weak buildings and damaged others.

Bottom of the high priority hazards were biological pests and new organisms (2.4) and a major air accident in Rotorua, also rated at 2.4. <inline type="poll" id="5838" align="outside"/>

Coastal erosion and heavy rainfall were given a moderate priority by Civil Defence, scoring 2.2 for seriousness of risk.

The report appeared to have been written before the recent eruption of Mt Tongariro and the weak eruption of White Island, which discharged a black ash-charged plume.

Neither did it mention the May 2005 Tauranga storm which triggered a civil defence emergency and led to widespread slips and property damage in parts of the city.


However, Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby, speaking after Friday's meeting of the emergency management committee, said the storm was the first time a civil defence emergency had been declared in Tauranga.

Mr Crosby said the key thing to come out of the meeting was the adoption of the Bay's Regional Civil Defence Emergency Plan.

"We are vulnerable to just about everything that you can imagine in the Bay, barring hurricanes," he said.


A study on emergency preparedness in the Bay had identified where improvements were needed and the region's Civil Defence budget had been doubled.

(Story continues below these photos of the Mount Ngarahoe eruption in February 1949, taken by Tauranga businessman and photographer, Alf Rendell, now retired.)


 


Civil Defence was filling positions left vacant by staff resigning to go and work in Christchurch.

"There has been a vast improvement in resourcing to action that plan, particularly in the next two years," Mr Crosby said.

A major new initiative, one of the lessons from Christchurch, was to engage more with the community.

The focus in Tauranga was on the coastal suburbs that were most vulnerable to a tsunami.

"When an event happens, they will have to look after themselves in the short term," Mr Crosby said.


Mount Ruapehu Eruption 1995. Photo: Tim Whittaker


 

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 20 Apr 2014 10:20:11 Processing Time: 557ms