Waipū Cove - site of just one the seven hospitality outlets across four tsunami evacuation zones. Rooney and Fraser's The Cove is photographed at rear.
By Susan Botting
Seven coastal hospitality outlets across tsunami evacuation zones from Whangārei to Mount Maunganui meant extra Friday morning challenges for Waipū Cove-based restaurateurs Lloyd Rooney and Michael Fraser.
Rooney and Fraser own and run cafes, restaurants and/or bars in four of the March 5 tsunami evacuation zones from Whangārei to Mount Maunganui along 400 kilometres of North Island east coast.
They have three outlets in Whangārei's Town Basin, one each at Waipū Cove and Mangawhai plus two at Mount Maunganui. All had to be evacuated on the morning of March 5, when the evacuation alert came in at 8.46am.
Rooney gave Whangārei central city's tsunami evacuation a B scorecard.
"The phone texts gave us a sense of urgency. That was 10 out of 10," he said.
The central city's lack of recognised designated evacuation points, routes and more was a problem however.
Staff at Whangārei Town Basin's Quay Cafe, the biggest of the outlets, had been at work since 6.30am preparing for the day's 9am opening – the earliest of the seven hospitality sites that day.
"I first heard tsunami evacuations were required while watching [morning television]," Rooney said.
"Minutes later the mobile alerts started coming through and then the managers started calling."
About 50 staff work across the seven outlets, although not all were yet at work as some open mid-morning or later.
"I told all the managers to shut down and evacuate, to go to higher ground," Rooney said.
Staff went to various higher ground evacuation locations, including some from Town Basin's The Quay going to a manager's Parahaki home and at Waipū Cove to the home of the couple managing The Cove.
Rooney said various prepping had to stop midstream. This included making muffins, proving croissants, chopping veges, making sauces and turning off ovens where meat had been cooking on low overnight.
Three o'clock became their decided afternoon cut off point for whether the business' outlets could open in time for evening service, the tsunami evacuation lifted just in time to be able to proceed.
"We got extra staff in to help between 3 and 5 [pm]," Rooney said.
Rooney had to go to Auckland for an appointment amidst the morning's unfolding tsunami evacuations - after getting signed documentation so he could get through the supercity's northern Covid-19 level 3 control border checkpoints.
He said evacuations had clearly gone well in Mangawhai because the settlement was a ghost town by 9.30am as he was travelling south to Auckland.