Tsunami sirens still favoured

By John Cousins

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Tsunami sirens have been strongly supported by Tauranga City councillors, despite moves to reconsider a big bag of warning technologies.

A pre-election survey by the Bay of Plenty Times of councillors, mayoral contenders and the Mount Maunganui/Papamoa Ward candidates has revealed different attitudes towards the importance of sirens but few thought they should be dropped in favour of mobile electronic technologies.

Even Rick Curach, the city's most techno-savvy councillor, was reluctant to put all his faith on systems like text alerts because of his experience of such systems becoming overloaded.

"It can take half an hour to receive a text, and that is the difference between life and death in a tsunami."

Councillor Tony Christiansen was not as convinced about sirens, saying there were a large number of other alternatives and the council should not put all its eggs in one basket.

He said the Ministry of Civil Defence needed to sort out its national standard on tsunami sirens first.

"We need to listen to them and get it right."

Councillor Bill Faulkner said sirens were part of a suite of warnings for a variety of disasters. His problem was that by the time an analysis had been completed of an earthquake and tsunami on the Pacific Rim, Papamoa would be gone.

GNS Science has warned that a worst-case 14m high tsunami generated by a huge slip on the subterranean Kermadec Trench would hit Tauranga in 50 minutes.

He said the community needed to understand that in a big quake, people should not hang around waiting for sirens or advice, but head for high ground.

Councillor Murray Guy said the council should use the year until Civil Defence delivered its national standard on sirens to better understand the hazards facing the community. He highlighted how a locally-sourced tsunami only ranked seventh on a list of high priority hazards facing the Western Bay.

However, Tauranga's aging population meant people could not be relied on to be familiar with modern technologies and a network of sirens should probably be the key focus, he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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