Richard Moore: Means to save lives, money go unheard

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Sometimes, when people don't listen, you need to make a noise to get their attention.

And there are plenty of folk out there who do not listen - even to good, sensible comments and ideas.

For years some of us have been pushing for better tsunami protection along our waterside suburbs.

It wasn't needed, we were told.

That'll never happen here, we were advised.

You're being paranoid, we were laughed at.

Then came the Japanese marine earthquake and a devastating tsunami that kills tens of thousands of people in a country that is prepared for such disasters.

We watched as a 10m wall of water raced towards the shore and then inundated low-lying coastal Japan.

People, cars, houses, factories were swept away in a jumble of muddied waters and building debris.

Those who had laughed at us weren't quite so mirthful after that. All of a sudden it was front and centre in the public focus.

Then the urgency of officials dissipated and our frontline defence against a watery disaster was submerged in red tape, meetings and a lack of leadership.

Eighteen months on from Japan's tragedy Papamoa and the Mount still do not have sirens.

Oh the process is well under way - and the officials-favoured scheme consists of 60-plus small electronic sirens covering about half the city at an estimated cost of about $1 million.

But there are other systems available, ones that are more efficient and much, much cheaper.

Last Friday members of the Papamoa Progressive Association, fed up at the disregard council has had over their views on the effectiveness and cost of the favoured sounders, set up a siren testing programme using large sirens.

They were much like World War II sirens, big, audible, rugged and - to cover the whole of Tauranga for any emergency - less than a quarter of the cost of the council-favoured one.

On Friday the winds were howling like banshees, perfect conditions for testing an emergency system that may need to be used at any time in any conditions, fair or foul.

I witnessed the test near Bayfair and the sirens worked a treat. They could be heard kilometres away.

Two councillors, Bill Grainger and Murray Guy, were there and they were impressed at the signals given off.

Association president Steve Morris was thrilled with the results and while I was there received about 80 text messages from people through the area saying they had heard the sirens. Something I missed when I couldn't hear the favoured sirens on their test day.

The company involved with the air-raid style sirens, Tactical Tooling, reckons eight sirens would be enough to cover Tauranga.

The price? Between $25,000 and $30,000 each - that includes installation, two sources of power on top of the main grid, and a life span of about 60 years.

They would be available for any emergency from gas leaks, chemicals explosions, floods, ash clouds or tsunami.

And they would be cost-effective in smaller towns such as Te Puke, Matata or Pukehina.

Now remember the council - for some inexplicable reason - doesn't want our emergency sirens any louder than 105 decibels.

Maybe council officers think people about to die in a raging torrent of water are more concerned about their hearing than their lives ...

Now to put the volume into perspective, an older style lawn mower is about 95 decibels.

So how loud were these air-raid-style sirens?

Well, where I was standing - 10 metres below the siren, it was 103-105 decibels.

Four hundred metres away it was 107.3 and 600m away it was 95.4 decibels.

So close to the council's strict limits it matters little.

If they are placed on roads then I am told there would be no need for consents - saving ratepayers even more barrowloads of dollars.

One question all ratepayers in this city need to ask their representatives is why council is opting for a system that is four times the price, was not as effective in tests, and will require maintenance of 60-plus sirens?

Another is why they are so hell bent on getting in a system without regarding one that seems to fit the bill perfectly?

Speak up and be heard - like the air-raid sirens.

richard@richardmoore.com

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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