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New tsunami preparedness and response recommendations

Release from Thames-Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council
Significant improvements to tsunami preparedness and response arrangements at Whitianga are being recommended by the Whitianga Tsunami Working Group.

The recommendations - in a new Whitianga Tsunami Risk Management Proposal - include increasing public awareness of natural warning signs, an expansion of the town’s siren network and the encouragement of  buildings, as key sites are re-developed, for use as evacuation centres.

The working group involves local community board members, emergency services staff, Mercury Bay Area School, community representatives and staff from Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) and Waikato Regional Council.

The group’s full recommendations are available online at www.tcdc.govt.nz/tsunami. People can give feedback through that website or by contacting TCDC’s strategic relationships manager Peter Wishart on 07 868 0200 or peter.wishart@tcdc.govt.nz.  Feedback can also be given by visiting the working group’s display at the Mercury Bay Emergency Services Summer Festival 2011 in Whitianga on 30 December. The closing date for written feedback is 30 January 2012.

The new proposals for Whitianga take into account feedback from hundreds of local people who attended two open days earlier this year over plans for a new Eastern Coromandel Tsunami Strategy being developed by the district and regional councils.

Mr Wishart said the Whitianga community had come to the open days well informed about the issues and was keen to improve the town’s preparedness for and response to tsunami by addressing the following key issues:

  • the need to understand natural warning signs such as earthquakes
  • the need to get warnings out quickly and to make sure they can be heard and understood
  • the potential for traffic congestion and “pinch points” as people evacuate the town
  • the welfare of people during and after they have evacuated
  • the need to take a sensible approach to future development in the town to make evacuations easier or at least to not make things worse.

Mr Wishart said the recommendations from the working group addressed these sorts of matters directly.

“For example, the recommendations include improvements to the siren network and more education about natural warnings signs. They also look at the need for buildings capable of serving as evacuation points, so that people, especially school children, can use them to ride out the effects of a tsunami, and improving access to an evacuation area at the southern end of the town.

“Now we want to hear back from the community about whether our recommendations meet its needs.”

The Eastern Coromandel Tsunami Strategy is being developed following new information indicating the east coast of the Waikato region faces a higher risk of tsunamis being generated by earthquakes in the Tonga-Kermadec trench to the north-east of New Zealand.

Work on the strategy is being rolled out in Whitianga first as it is considered the location most at risk from the impacts of tsunami.

The strategy team is planning to address tsunami planning in other Coromandel communities as the project progresses.

People with any general queries about the tsunami project can get in touch with Mr Wishart at the contacts above. Waikato Regional Council hazards and emergency manager Adam Munro (0800 800 401 and adam.munro@waikatoregion.govt.nz) is also available to answer questions.

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