Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Pressure mounts for 'urgent action' over tsunami sirens in Bay

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Tsunami alert sirens will be on the agenda at next month's Tauranga City Council meeting after mounting pressure from coastal residents concerned they slept through Monday's earthquake.

An unofficial Bay of Plenty Times street survey found 57 out of 60 Mount Maunganui and Papamoa residents polled said there should be tsunami sirens along the coastal strip.

Councillors Steve Morris, Bill Grainger and Leanne Brown filed a notice of motion with the Tauranga City Council chief executive on Tuesday calling on the council to consider tsunami alerting mechanisms for the city. It included a request for council staff to present an issues and options paper at the December 6 council meeting.

Mr Morris said the matter had gone on long enough and it was now time for urgent action.

Ms Brown said councillors had been inundated with calls and emails from the community since the earthquake, many calling for sirens.

The community had spoken and made it clear the council needed to move now rather than wait until the next time mother nature reared her head, she said.

Mayor Greg Brownless said he had spoken to the three councillors and urged them to file the notice of motion so the matter could be treated with some urgency.

The matter would definitely be up for discussion on December 6, he said.
Three years ago the council axed the controversial tsunami sirens project, instead opting for improving evacuation routes.

Paul Baunton, the council's emergency manager, said no work had been done on the potential siren costs since the council abandoned the project in 2013.

"At the time council was looking at options it was going to be around $2 million depending on specifications and acoustic requirements. Annual maintenance costs were not included in the installation estimate," he said.

Papamoa Plaza manager David Hill said it was prudent for the council to continue to explore what was best practice worldwide .

Mr Hill said he would hate to see the council put all its "eggs in one basket" and rely on the sirens alone.

The land-based sirens during the 2011 Japan tsunami were the first things to be knocked out and although he lived about 80 metres from the Papamoa fire station he could only hear the sirens if the wind was blowing in the right direction, he said.

"I'm not prepared to risk my family by waiting for a siren to go off. If you feel an earthquake or receive a text message like I did, people need to get out of their homes and head for the hills," he said.

Papamoa Beach Resort owner Bruce Crosby said central government should develop standardised warning system.

"It doesn't make sense for each council in the country to develop its own system... A standardised tsunami warning system would also mean the investigation and trialling costs could be covered by all taxpayers."

Mr Crosby said people also needed to look after their neighbours to ensure they got to safety in the event of a tsunami warning.

Public pressure for tsunami alert sirens

Public pressure is mounting for the installation of tsunami sirens in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa.

A petition set up hours after Monday morning's earthquake last night had 4396 signatures and an unofficial Bay of Plenty Times poll of 30 people in Mount Maunganui and 30 people in Papamoa yesterday found an overwhelming majority wanted tsunami sirens installed.

Only three people in total said no to the sirens, one respondent saying she thought the text messages from Civil Defence were enough.

Many said they did not care if the sirens went off for a false alarm - they would rather wake up and evacuate than be washed away.

Don Wright, of Papamoa, said he believed there should be sirens but responsibility for safety did not end there.

"In addition to sirens people need to have emergency kits, getaway kits and know where to evacuate to. It's a whole package."

Annette Deville, who works in Mount Maunganui, said she hoped the council would listen to the people.

"I like to think the council cares about the safety of our community. It's unbelievable to think we only have text messages to alert us of a natural disaster."

Neighbourhood Support Papamoa co-ordinator Bruce Banks said he had been flooded with calls from the community offering different opinions.

"I'd like to see something else in addition to the text or email alerts. There must be a better system out there, and our community deserves a lot better warning system. It's good to see the issue back on the council agenda."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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