Tsunami siren trial rules clash

By John Cousins

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The organisers of Friday's alternative tsunami siren test at Papamoa and Mount Maunganui have been forced into placing their extremely loud sirens closer to houses because most of the preferred sites clashed with council planning rules.

Papamoa Progressive Association chairman Steve Morris said the idea was to minimise the annoyance to residents, even though the tests were only for three minutes.

"The District Plan rules are there to protect residents, but red tape is doing the opposite. To comply with the plan, we have to go closer to houses than we wanted to," Mr Morris said.

The non-complying sites in the Mount Primary School grounds and an empty paddock opposite Harrison's Cut have been dropped so that all the tests would now take place along the sides of roads. The other abandoned site was about 30 metres inside Grenada Park.

Mr Morris said they came unstuck with their original locations when the supplier of the modern version of the traditional World War II air raid siren, Tactical Tooling, made sure that it had "dotted all the i's and crossed the t's" with the council.

"It came under the eyes of a planner ... I have a severe allergy to red tape. I had hoped common sense would prevail but unfortunately it hasn't," he said.

The association's testing of the air raid-style sirens was at odds with the council's decision to authorise Meerkat Alert Systems to carry out engineering design and consenting for a system of 60 much smaller electronic alarms.

But Mr Morris said Tactical Tooling was saying it could cover the city with seven sirens costing about $200,000 installed, or about a quarter of the cost of the council's preference. The sirens are four times more powerful than the Papamoa Fire Brigade's siren.

The changes meant that Mr Morris would be "chatting" with neighbours who lived within 50m of the new sites.

The 9am test in Papamoa would be carried out in Market Place off Enterprise Drive and Palm Beach Boulevard. The 10.30am test at the Mount would be in Grenada St opposite Grenada Park and the corner of Maunganui Rd and Matai St. He said the council had decided not to take its own noise measurements, so the association will borrow Tactical Tooling's device and place it in an open area between the two sirens.

Volunteers will also be stationed along the coast sitting in their cars in order to provide "qualitative tests" of the noise from the sirens. The furthest away listening posts will be in Te Puke, the top of the Papamoa Hills, Adams Ave and the top of the Minden at Te Puna.

Mayor Stuart Crosby defended the council's decision to enforce the District Plan, saying the rules were there for everybody. The council's test of the Kordia sirens earlier this year had to go on roadsides because that was the only place permitted in the rules.

Mr Crosby said he did not have a view on the association's test, except to say it would be interesting.

"We are nonplussed about the whole thing," the mayor said.

He said the air raid-style sirens were incredibly loud and the association had to be careful about how they did the tests in a public place. Mr Crosby said it was risky situation for the council, which was supporting an alternative proposal. The golden rule was that elected members should never get involved in the tender process or support a particular provider when the council was in the middle of a tender process.

"That can create potential risk ... how would you feel if you were in Meerkat's shoes - they won the tender," Mr Crosby said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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