City's tsunami early warning system deemed 'sadly lacking'

Dunedin needs to do more to prepare for a tsunami, a group advocating for a new early warning system in the city has told Dunedin city councillors.

Tsunami Action Group founder Eddie Gray, of Dunedin, said the city was "sadly lacking" in an early warning system, which could provide crucial minutes or seconds for people to escape an incoming wave.

The city had old and inadequate portable sirens, which would be used to alert people to danger, and also lacked appropriate signage and an escape plan to direct people away from any threat, he said.

Instead, the city should be investing in modern sirens to be positioned in areas where there could be a tsunami threat.

Earthquakes and tsunamis were impossible to predict, but preparations could help minimise their deadly impact, he said.

"We either protect our people in Dunedin here or we could pay the cost of it."

Better education of the population was also needed to teach people what to do when an alert was activated, he believed.

Existing civil defence arrangements were "just a joke" and would be inadequate in the event of a tsunami, which could threaten the lives of 1500 people - and injury to 3500 more - in low-lying Dunedin suburbs, he said.

Cr Lee Vandervis agreed existing sirens were "a joke", but wondered whether cellphones could be used to send text message warnings more efficiently and cheaply than sirens.

Mr Gray disagreed, saying money could be saved, but many elderly people living in areas under threat "wouldn't know what they [cellphones] were, let alone how to use them".



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