Mayor questions tsunami system

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has questioned the wisdom of the city's tsunami warning systems, designed to protect residents from giant waves.

Mr Cull was speaking at yesterday's Dunedin City Council annual plan deliberations, in relation to a submission to last week's public hearings calling for a modern new siren system in the city.

The submitter, Tsunami Action Group founder Eddie Gray, of Dunedin, was to receive a response from council staff stating a fully operative public tsunami warning system was already in place.

However, Mr Cull questioned the merits of that response when a draft of it was discussed at yesterday's deliberations, saying the response was "a little bit less than plausible".

The present tsunami warning system involved sending Civil Defence staff, with sirens mounted on vehicles, into the danger area to warn others, which was probably not the wisest thing to do, Mr Cull said.

Cr Kate Wilson disagreed, saying she had spoken to Civil Defence staff, who advised the warning system was adequate.

Their advice was an earthquake generating a tsunami close to the Dunedin coast would leave no time for anyone to respond, but a tsunami coming from the other side of the Pacific Ocean would allow 14 hours' warning, she said.

Speaking at last week's hearings, Cr Lee Vandervis had suggested using cellphone networks to alert residents by text message to an approaching tsunami.

However, Cr Wilson yesterday said evidence suggested the service would be expensive, unreliable and have only small uptake.

Council city environment general manager Tony Avery said a similar scheme used during floods in the Hawkes Bay had failed, when a text-message warning was delivered to phones up to 10 hours late because networks overloaded.

Cr Vandervis persisted, saying any suggestion a modern siren system would suffice "flies in the face of all probable reality".

He was in contact with a company which said it was capable of delivering a workable service, and believed the idea should be investigated.

"To be looking anywhere else, or putting our faith in sirens ... to me is absolutely absurd.

"We need to look at modern communications because this is simply a communication issue."

Mr Cull asked Cr Vandervis to bring further information about the idea to the council's planning and environment committee.


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