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Public forums on tsunami alerting methods are being held

06 April 2021

Our Council is holding a series of public forums for people to find out more about why the tsunami warning sirens in our district are being disconnected from the pager system that activates them, and to find out what alternative measures are in place to keep everyone safe.

The public forums are being held at:

  • Whitianga – Monday 12 April 12:30pm. TCDC Mercury Bay Board Room, 10 Monk St.
  • Tairua – Tuesday 13 April 9am. St Francis Church, 248 Main Rd.
  • Pauanui – Tuesday 13 April 12pm. Community Hub, 23 Centreway.
  • Whangamatā – Tuesday 13 April 2pm. TCDC Board Room. 620 Port Rd.

Public forums for the west coast of the Coromandel (Thames, Coromandel Town and Colville) will take place in May.

Dates and locations for these, and more information on tsunami sirens, will be posted on our website at tcdc.govt.nz/tsunamisirens

Background to tsunami siren disconnection

Long Strong Gone

Our tsunami sirens are not compliant with national standards released in 2014. Between 2016 and 2020 our Council investigated Indoor Alerting Devices as an alternative but this investigation was discontinued because cellular and broadband coverage in our district had significantly improved and because there were new, better, alerting methods.

The National Emergency Management Agency directed our Council in 2020 to either make our tsunami sirens compliant with the national standards or disconnect them. As all but nine of the 27 sirens in our district are attached to the Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) fire siren network, our Council agreed with FENZ that the paging system activating the tsunami alert signal would be maintained and operational until September 2021 when it will be progressively disconnected from the sirens – which will remain operational for fire alerts.

Our Council estimates that it would cost between $5 million and $11 million to replace the tsunami sirens with a compliant network. The current sirens can not be retrofitted to comply with the national standards.

The current warning sirens reach fewer than 43 per cent of the Coromande’s population. Also, sirens are not considered a reliable alerting tool because wind, location, and double-glazing on windows can affect audibility.

The following alerting systems are already available and our Council is confident they are more effective than sirens in the event of a tsunami threat:

  • National Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA) - getready.govt.nz/prepared/stay-informed/emergency-mobile-alert/
  • Red Cross Hazards app and GeoNet app – download from Google Play Store or the Apple App Store
  • Ongoing and improved upgrade of the cellular and broadband fibre networks through the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) project and Ultra Fast Broadband rollout
  • Growing use of digital social media platforms
  • Radio and television coverage
  • WHISPIR - a platform that provides alerts to more remote locations with limited cell coverage, rolling out later this year
  • Community Response Planning where communities are working together to prepare for emergencies in their own neighbourhood – tcdc.govt.nz/emu
  • Increased public education and communication

It’s also very important to recognise the natural warning signs of a tsunami; if you are near the shore and experience any of the following, take action. Do not wait for official warnings.

  • Feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand, or a long earthquake that lasts more than a minute (Long or Strong, Get Gone)
  • See a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • Hear loud or unusual noises from the sea