A tsunami exercise carried out by a Papamoa school has found that it would take more than an hour to reach safety should a wave hit.
This would fall outside the projected 50-minute window to get to higher ground if a tsunami originated from the southern Kermadec Trench.
The school is now asking that a path be cleared.
Golden Sands School held a tsunami drill with Papamoa police after mapping the safest and quickest route to high ground near the Papamoa Hills.
After almost an hour climbing over fences along the route, the students only made it to the intersection of Bell Rd and Parton Rd. Principal Melanie Taylor said they had only taken the children in Years 3 to 6 and estimated it would take the entire school up to two hours to reach the Papamoa Hills.
Ms Taylor said after the drill, she had gone out and bought bolt cutters as in an emergency they wouldn't have time to wait for children to climb over the fences.
The Tauranga City Council needed to build a walkway to give schools in the area the best chance of reaching higher ground in time, she said.
"That will be the only way out, there's nothing else." Parent Paul Melhuish accompanied the students and said the drill showed how difficult an evacuation would be in a real life event.
"This was all highly prepared, not like in an event where you'd have to drop everything and go. You've got to go across paddocks, it would be a bit of a challenge whether doing it with a school or not."
Papamoa Progressive Association chairman Steve Morris said parents were worried about the time it would take to get the children to higher ground.
"The kids at Papamoa schools, in a worse-case event, are certainly in harm's way, as we all are."
Papamoa police Sergeant Phil Gillbanks said the council would be approached to see if there was any way to mark the route for people to follow with permission of the land owners.
Tahatai Coast School principal Ian Leckie said their original tsunami plan had been to head for the Papamoa Hills, which would take about an hour, but their large two storey building would be their first port of call.
"To get to the Papamoa Hills we would have had to cross council drains and things like that.
"We've got a large two storey building so unless it's an extremely large tsunami our response will be to put the whole school up there."
Papamoa Primary School principal Phil Friar said they had liaised with Civil Defence and changed their plan from aiming for the Papamoa Hills to high ground at Parton Rd which would take "16-and-a-half minutes to reach".
Tauranga City Council manager of city development Paul Baunton said: "We are very aware of the importance of the issue to its community. Work will continue until an effective plan is in place." Civil Defence did not respond to a request for comment before the Bay of Plenty Times went to print.