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Published: 2012-04-12 00:00:00

The roll out of the Eastern Coromandel Tsunami Strategy is to be extended to Pauanui and Tairua, Waikato Regional Council’s catchment services committee heard today.

The news comes after this week’s major earthquakes in Asia sparked fears of a repeat of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The Eastern Coromandel Tsunami Strategy is a partnership between the regional council and Thames-Coromandel District Council, and involves local agencies and communities.

The project was initiated after new research showed a higher risk than previously understood to the Waikato region’s east coast from major tsunami generated by big earthquakes in the Tonga-Kermadec trench to New Zealand’s north-east. There is also a risk to the east coast from tsunami generated by local sources, such as offshore volcanoes, and from distant sources, such as big earthquakes in South America.

The strategy has initially focused on Whitianga, the area seen as most at risk from the impacts of tsunami, and has led to Whitianga taking or contemplating a range of measures to reduce risk to people and property.

A report to the committee said tsunami risk in Pauanui and Tairua would now be addressed as a joint project under the strategy.

“Many of the learnings and processes that resulted from the Whitianga phase of the project will be adopted in this next stage to ensure time and cost efficiencies and economies of scale are maximized,” the report said.

Pauanui and Tairua had been chosen as the next centres for work under the strategy due to factors such as the availability of detailed land and seafloor information and their demonstrated willingness to address tsunami risk through the installation of warning sirens.

Inundation modeling (hazard mapping) work is due to be completed by August and consultation with the two communities is due to begin in November, with draft proposals for risk management improvements expected early next year, the committee was told.

Meanwhile, Thames-Coromandel constituency councillor Simon Friar told the meeting it was “silly” that there was no nationally consistent warning signal for tsunami.

Currently, decisions over tsunami warning systems and their funding are handled at a local community level, meaning different areas can have different systems.

The committee adopted a motion from Cr Friar calling on the regional council and the Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management Group to advocate for a nationally consistent warning system.