It is not good enough for John Carter to say there will be a review of New Zealand Civil Defence's response to the tsunami alert - there needs to be an independent review of what happened by someone we can trust.

And it should be given priority. You never know when the system will next need to respond and after yesterday's schemozzle, my confidence in the system has weakened, not grown.

Before that confidence in the system can be restored, we need to have confidence in a decent review and what happened. We need to be sure it is not some PR puff piece put together by the officials involved whom we know would say "we can always do better."

Several things were alarming yesterday, including the fact that John Carter put out a premature press release praising his officials in the midst of of the alert and actually at the precise time that confusion was at its height.

That is apart from the confusion that reigned at 8.45 in morning when Colin Feslier from Internal Affairs was telling Paul Henry that reports of a tsunami arising from the 6.48 am earthquake were just rumours and they should have confirmation in an hour.

Later in the morning the messages between Civil Defence in the bunker in the Beehive and the mass media were confusing about whether the alert had been cancelled or or reinstated and therefore the public was confused about whether or not a tsunami was coming.

The warning that had been issued shortly after 8am had been cancelled just after 11am after a 40cm wave struck the East Coast.

Unavoidable confusion is to be expected in such situations but avoidable confusion should be kept to a minimum and it was not.

Changes in messages from Civil Defence were sent out under the same headline as the old message.

Some messages were emailed; others, such as the time that the wave would arrive in various areas in New Zealand was simply posted on the website.

Auckland City Council apparently put out a message a fresh alert soon after the cancellation of the earlier warning.

Sean Plunket on Morning Report this morning said that Radio New Zealand's red phone alert was not used at all yesterday. I don't know whether that was significant or not.

I don't know if Civil Defence realises that newspaper websites can publish in real time, too.

The director of civil defence, John Hamilton, could not say at a 3.30pm press conference whether people were able to return to beaches or not.

Confusion had peaked earlier. I was standing in the bunker in the Beehive with other reporters ready to interview Hamilton at about 12.10pm.

That's when Carter's executive assistant brought down the press release headed "Minister praises Kiwis' readiness for Tsunami."

The press conference took place between the cancellation of a "warning" and the reinstatement of an "advisory."

A 1m wave had been recorded at Raoul Island and an "advisory' was issued after the press conference at about 12.30 pm.

Yesterday's response was not enough to lose confidence in the system, but platitudes in a press release don't help one bit.

They will be forgiven this time because lives weren't lost. Next time lives could depend on what comes out of the review.

Audrey Young
Pictured above: Oceanographer Dr. David Walsh studies earthquake charts at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. AP Photo / Marco Garcia.