Questions are being asked over whether all of Whakatāne needed to evacuate during the recent tsunami threat.
Nearly the whole town scrambled for the hills but according to maps on the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence website, only about a third of the town was in potential danger.
Maps show that most of Whakatāne south of Domain and Landing Rds would have been safe in a tsunami up to 8.25m high. The predicted tsunami on March 5 was of between 1m and 3m.
The mapped "safe zone" includes both Whakatāne secondary schools, Allandale and St Joseph's primary schools and Whakatane Hospital.
Community and emergency workers are now asking, should an alert come again, should people in this part of town stay where they are or evacuate just to be safe?
Police raised the point with Minister for Emergency Management and East Coast MP Kiri Allan at a meeting on Friday.
Allan met with Civil Defence staff, police and volunteer firefighters at Whakatane District Council to hear how they thought New Zealand's largest evacuation event went.
Eastern Bay road policing manager Chris Howard summed it up in one word - "chaos".
Howard said as soon as the evacuation alert hit people's phones, the roads in Whakatane were gridlocked.
"Everyone wanted to drive, no one wanted to walk, there was one person per car."
Police raised the issue that the original alert did not specify how far from the coast people needed to evacuate and the estimated time of arrival of the tsunami.
Howard said the fact that some evacuated when they possibly didn't need to, contributed to traffic gridlock and could have prevented those who did need to evacuate from getting to safety if a tsunami did eventuate.
He gave the example of it taking Trident High School students 20 minutes to cross Valley Rd to walk up Gorge Rd, which impeded the flow of traffic. Howard noted that, according to the Civil Defence tsunami map, these students would have been safe at school.
"We would like to see some education put out there that people can walk or cycle if this happens again," he said.
Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick said police did not have the Civil Defence map available on the day so were making allowances for everyone to evacuate. However, there might not be as long a time frame next time so he was worried that if people who didn't need to evacuate did so again, there might be loss of life due to blocked escape routes.
An example of this was Awakeri School evacuating, which is about 10km from the coast.
"With the whole town evacuating, it made our lives harder," Fenwick said.
"The alert said to get to higher ground, and it would be great if it could be more specific about how close you have to be to the coast to be in danger. There was widespread panic with people at Awakeri and Waimana evacuating."
The police stressed that they were not blaming those who did evacuate and said it was human nature to respond that way.
The police also noted there was a communication breakdown and the public knew before them that the threat had passed.
Allan said there would be a review into how the evacuation was handled, as there was with all events like this.
"My thoughts are, though, did people know what to do and did they have the means to do it? The answer is yes across the board," she said.
"I would still err on the side that it is better people leave home than stay."
Allan said that during a national event like this messaging was very broad and messages sent to the public just couldn't into that level of detail requested.
She said staff made decisions with the best data available to them at the time and these decisions were then communicated almost immediately to the public.
She was concentrating on whether, had the tsunami eventuated, there would have been loss of life or not.
"Your comments will all feed into the national review which will be publicly released."
Local Democracy Reporting asked Bay of Plenty Civil Defence if it would like those living in the grey areas on the map to evacuate in any future events. Some members of the public said they had stayed home after viewing the maps but were wondering if they made the right decision.
A spokeswoman responded that it would be too early to say.
"The event was a very valuable opportunity to see how a large-scale evacuation works in reality," she said.
"A number of debriefs are being held at a local, regional and national level, so it's too early to state what that advice would be though there will be public education programmes that fall out of this in due course."