Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Watch out for 'crazy-ass' alerts

Funky new civil defence posts have Facebook users tuning into the weather.
The Waikato Civil Defence team's novel social media campaign is attracting a growing army of fans. Photo / https://www.facebook.com/WaikatoCivilDefence
The Waikato Civil Defence team's novel social media campaign is attracting a growing army of fans. Photo / https://www.facebook.com/WaikatoCivilDefence

A wacky new way to deliver the weather forecast is causing outbreaks of hilarity across some areas of New Zealand.

The Waikato Civil Defence team's novel social media campaign is attracting a growing army of fans.

It releases regular tweets and Facebook posts casting the weather in a fun new light and encouraging feedback.

Regular forecasting jargon has been replaced with terms such as "volcano farts" and "weather sausages" - and there are updates on how wind and rain might affect people's hair, via a "frizzy-meter".

Last month a report about warm and muggy conditions in Waikato started with: "So, you're probably wondering 'what's the weather going to do to my weave'?"

Weather maps have been replaced by hand-drawn doodles featuring characters such as Charlene the Thunder Wizard and talking cows, goats and birds.

One recent forecast began: "IT'S FRIDAY!! BOOYAH!!"

It went on: "Sorry to all the people on the west of the 'Band of Moist' who probably won't get any rain today. You fullahs on the right of the 'Band of Moist' might get some, but probably nothing like what you want."

The online posts are aimed at reaching people from 18-35, identified as the most unprepared in case of an emergency, said Waikato Civil Defence's Matthew Pryor, the man behind most of the posts.

"Civil defence has a pretty dull image so we thought it would be fun to liven things up and engage with a wider and younger audience.

"At Christmas our weather reports had a barbecue theme running through them and it is things like that that gets people interested and keeps them coming back."

The campaign appears to be working. The number of Waikato Civil Defence Facebook page's followers has risen from 800 to 11,000. Only 50 used to follow its Twitter account but that is now more than 2000.

Poking fun at Aucklanders also goes down well.

At the start of this month the Coromandel was described as being "crazy-ass wet" with "heaps of Aucklanders retreating to their dry homes on the SH1".

The idea could catch on as other Government-run organisations are looking to engage better with the public.

Waikato police had already sought advice from the Civil Defence team about its Facebook page, Pryor said.

"There is a stiff-upper-lip approach to dealing with the public that we are trying to lighten up a bit.

"But behind the laughs we hope that in the event of a genuine emergency, people will instantly know where to go to seek advice about safety because they are used to interacting with us already."

- Herald on Sunday

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