Otago Regional Council environmental data officer Nineva
Vaitupu (left) and environmental monitoring team leader
Peter Stevenson show the new Twitter alert the council will
begin to use today for flood warnings alongside its
autodial system. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Otago landowners along floodways will soon be alerted to
the risk of flooding through the Twitter alerts service.
The Otago Regional Council, which at present attempts to
phone 430 landowners on its flood alert list, is moving with
the times and using Twitter
alerts, a one-way messaging system.
Environmental engineering and natural hazards director Gavin
Palmer said it would enable the council to improve the
service it provided to the public when it came to advising
predicted or actual flooding.
"It is in response to the way people now prefer to access
information. Greater Wellington [regional council] and GNS
also use Twitter alert services."
The alerts will be relayed from the council to all those who
subscribe to the service.
There will be two types: "watches" that a high river or lake
is possible within the next 36 hours, or "warnings" that high
levels are likely or certain in those hours.
The alerts will encourage users to seek more information
through the council's waterline or water information pages on
An advantage is that instead of the council needing to
maintain a list of contact numbers and people alerting the
council to changes in phone numbers or personnel, it requires
those interested to opt in to the service.
From today, the council will run the Twitter alert system
alongside the auto dialler ring list until April, but that
could be extended until several weather events have been
The service will only require the landowner to have a
cellphone or computer as alerts can be sent out as an email.
An exception to the service will be the East Taieri Upper
Pond area, which will still be phoned to be advised of the
council's intentions to operate the Riverside spillway.
There are only a few areas, generally not flood prone, of
Otago where cellphone reception is poor and the council
expects that to improve.
"The auto-dial system will be maintained until we are
satisfied it is fulfilling our service requirement and to
allow time for farmers to acquire cellphones."
Staff experience is that the vast majority of farmers already
In addition to the text service and maintaining the dial-up
system, the council will continue to release prompt early
warning flood advisories to give farmers time to move stock.
Chairman Stephen Woodhead said once he understood it was
essentially a "pager system", he believed it was a positive
move, especially as farm ownership and management changed
regularly making it impossible to maintain an accurate call
The call list was inefficient and took staff hours to ring
around, he said.
The council will publicise the changes and will phone all of
those on the list to tell them about the change.