Previous plans to install new sirens from Papamoa to Omanu have been delayed, with the impact of Covid-19 attributed as the main factor.
However, any system must fit the profile for new regulations regarding tsunami warning infrastructure.
It comes after residents in the Thames Coromandel District Council region expressed major concerns about the deactivation of the tsunami warning system in their area.
Mercury Bay resident Linda Cholmondeley Smith expressed her concerns with TCDC Mayor Sandra Goudie after the earthquake and tsunami threat across the East Coast on Friday, March 5.
Linda was left disappointed at the lack of alerts and soon discovered regional plans to deactivate sirens.
“Within six hours we have had three earthquakes and there has not been anything from Civil Defence,” Linda says.
Linda claims the Mayor told her at a public meeting on Sunday, March 21, that the decision to deactivate the sirens in the TCDC area was an internal decision with no public consultation.
TCDC civil defence controller Garry Towler clarifies the tsunami sirens in TCDC will be disconnected in September. He also disputes the idea there was no public consultation.
“We’ve been flagging up since at least December 2016 that the tsunami warning sirens in our district are not compliant with the new national standards,” says Gary.
“Because of issues around their location, wind direction, double-glazing in windows they are not the most effective means of alerting people.”
In 2014, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management released a new standard for tsunami warning sirens.
A timeframe until June 2020 was given to meet this new standard.
In July 2020, TCDC were informed their sirens no longer complied.
In Tauranga, there are currently no active tsunami sirens.
Much like in the TCDC area, any sirens in Tauranga would need to meet the new guidelines set out in 2014.
“The standard requires sirens intended to be used for tsunami warnings to be PA capable in order to provide simple and clear voice messages after the alert signal,” Barbara explains.
Plans to install up to 12 sirens, covering around 15km, remain.
However, the project is on hold due to Covid-19 related supply chain issues. A report related to the use of sirens will be presented to Tauranga City Council commissioners on April 27.
Civil Defence New Zealand advise not to wait for official warnings. If you’re near the coast and feel an earthquake that is long or strong, get gone is the message.
Linda has now started a petition to try and ensure sirens remain a part of the alert system in the Thames-Coromandel region.
She believes implementing the new systems alongside traditional air-raid style sirens, is the most expedient way to ensure safety for all. “We’re doing all these great things which are ok when they are already complimenting a system that already exists.”