A test of Auckland's tsunami alert system has failed to reach many beachfront residents, prompting one to complain: "I'm doomed - didn't hear anything."
More than 50 people in various coastal parts of Auckland have reported on Auckland Emergency Management's Facebook page that they did not get texts or could not hear sirens that were tested at midday today
One woman who was at the Ōrewa surf club at the time said she didn't receive a text message and "couldn't really hear" the sirens - the city's two newest sirens that became operational today.
Another woman at nearby Red Beach said: "Could hardly hear in Red Beach. No idea what was being said. No text alert."
Residents at Manly, Gulf Harbour, Castor Bay, West Harbour, Hobsonville, Glendowie, Howick, Beachlands and Papakura reported that they didn't hear anything.
A Beachlands resident posted: "Received no text and heard no siren in Beachlands and we're right next to the ocean."
Hobsonville resident Paul Chang commented: "I'm doomed - didn't hear anything."
But other residents at Ōrewa and Greenhithe reported hearing the sirens "loud and clear".
The test was separate from the national text alert system that was used when New Zealand went into the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown in March and again when Auckland went to level 3 and the rest of New Zealand went to level 2 in August.
Civil Defence Emergency Management communications adviser Iona Wassilieff said those alerts went to every cellphone in the country that was modern enough to receive it.
"Most are now capable," she said.
In contrast, today's regional text alerts went only to people who have signed up to receive them.
Wassilieff said the regional sign-up system reached people whose cellphones were not modern enough to get the national alerts, and also enabled people to opt into receiving lower-level alerts.
"The threshold for messaging on emergency mobile alerts is really high - there has to be serious risk to life, health or property," she said.
"The regional ones can do it at a lower level. People can choose the level of emergency that they want to be told about."
An Auckland Emergency Management spokesperson said the region's 44 tsunami alert sirens were also tested today. However they are only at 13 locations - five on the Hibiscus Coast from near Leigh to Ōrewa, six on the west coast from Bethells Beach to Huia, and two in low-lying parts of the upper Waitematā Harbour at Te Atatū and Herald Island.
"They are in the areas that are most at risk in the event of a tsunami," the spokesperson said.
Auckland's east coast south of Ōrewa might be considered less at risk because it is protected by the Coromandel Peninsula and offshore islands, but the spokesperson said the current network dated from before the region's previous seven districts were merged to form Auckland Council in 2010.
"Auckland has more than 3000km of coastline, which means many coastal communities are potentially at risk from damaging tsunamis," she said.
"Most of the region's current sirens were installed by the former Waitākere and Rodney District Councils. Before we look at expanding our regional siren alerting network, we first need to understand the specific risks damaging tsunamis will bring to each community.
"Auckland Emergency Management is in the middle of a 10-year project aimed at understanding more about the tsunami risk in Auckland. This includes looking who and what is at risk, and how we prepare and alert our communities to the dangers of damaging tsunami from both near and far sources.
"Our first priority is to remodel our tsunami inundation (flood) zones using the latest modelling techniques. After we've completed the new modelling, we'll start looking at how to best support our coastal communities and support the existing national alerting system, the Emergency Mobile Alert."
She said today's test was also affected by high winds.
"Due to today's wind, we were unable to carry out acoustic testing on our new sirens in Ōrewa. In some areas, it's possible that the wind may have impacted the ability to hear the sirens," she said.
"Now that the testing is complete, we will be reviewing the information we have to identify any issues.
"We are already aware of issues with two of the sirens within the network – at Te Atatū north and Huia, and Auckland Emergency Management will be investigating the cause of this in the coming days and weeks. This underlines the importance of regularly testing our alert systems."