Tsunami siren u-turn likely (+poll)

By Julia Proverbs


Air raid sirens are likely for Tauranga's coastal strip in what looks set to be an about-turn by city leaders.

Tauranga City Council appointed Meerkat in July to carry out engineering design and consenting for a proposed electronic alarm system, despite residents saying they wanted a more simple system, such as air raid sirens.

But Mayor Stuart Crosby has revealed to the Bay of Plenty Times the number of electronic sirens needed to cover the 20km coastline would cost too much. "I'm not satisfied we can achieve what we need to do in the price range we struck," he said.

A report to council later this month would reveal "major problems" with the proposed electronic system. It was yet to be debated by councillors but Mr Crosby's "intuition" told him that air raid sirens would be the way forward. "If we want to do something reasonably soon with the least resistance from a resource management point of view, then yes," he said.

He defended the council decision to appoint Meerkat. "It was good that we went to design-build and found the barriers in place."

Under the current city plan, tsunami sirens could not be put in residential areas, Mr Crosby said. While that could be addressed, the quickest and simplest solution was to put them on land zoned commercial or industrial, as allowed under the plan.

This would give coverage as far as the Papamoa Fire Station in Parton Rd. "At the moment we can't put up traditional sirens in residential areas without going through a process but we need to make sure everyone can hear them," he said.

Council was also mindful there was no national standard in place for Civil Defence warning systems and wanted to make sure the chosen system was future-proof. "It is a significant investment ... and we want to make sure it is fit for purpose."

However, the council would not wait indefinitely for a standard to be put in place. "People want it sooner rather than later," Mr Crosby said.

Civil Defence said a national standard for tsunami sirens was not planned for this financial year. Papamoa Progressive Association chairman Steve Morris welcomed air raid sirens.

"I'd be delighted that commonsense, as far as cost, has prevailed," he said.

The association tested modified "WWII air raid style sirens" in October, after residents complained the system tested by council was not loud enough.

Mr Morris said air raid siren manufacturer Tactical Tooling could cover the city with eight to 10 of its sirens, costing $200,000 installed - about a quarter of the cost of Meerkat's system.

However, with the help of an acoustic expert, council calculated that to achieve the same coverage as 64 Meerkat sites carrying four to 10 loudspeakers per pole, a total of 25 air raid siren sites would be needed, costing nearly $1.5 million, including generators and resource consent costs.

Have your say! What do you think of the tsunami siren plans? Are you worried about natural disasters? Do you have an emergency plan in place? Leave a comment below and vote in the poll. Responses may be published.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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