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Published: 2005-12-20 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is now into stage three of a study designed to reduce risks to people and property if a tsunami strikes the Waikato region.

Stages one and two of the study, which began in 2002 in conjunction with Environment Bay of Plenty, identified potential tsunami sources and hot spots in the region, pinpointing the eastern Coromandel and Bay of Plenty coastlines as the highest-risk areas.

Research into tsunami activity over the past 5000 years was carried out and a historical catalogue of tsunami events created.

Stage three will help to better define the most likely source and size of a potential tsunami event and investigate the best ways to protect the community, starting with the high-risk Mercury Bay area. Future work with other communities along the east coast is planned for the next three years.

The identification of the most likely source and size of a potential tsunami event is being undertaken as a joint project between Environment Waikato, Northland Regional Council, Auckland Regional Council and Environment Bay of Plenty. The study is expected to be completed by June next year.

“It is very important that we have a solid understanding of how a tsunami event is likely to unfold before we begin implementing mitigation measures,” said Environment Waikato programme manager, regional hazards and emergency management, Brendan Morris.

“We want to be sure we understand the size of the wave and its potential impacts.”

Once this has been done, the council will work in partnership with the Thames Coromandel District Council to minimise risks to people and property through a series of local risk reduction measures. These may include the implementation of warning and detection systems, public education and awareness and emergency management planning measures.

“We will be working to raise awareness of tsunami issues and help communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from a tsunami event,” Mr Morris said.