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Published: 2010-02-28 00:00:00

Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management Group is continuing to urge residents of the Waikato region’s east coast to stay away from the ocean after a warning that a tsunami up to one metre high is due to hit from about 7am onwards today.

It follows the earthquake off Chile.

A complicating factor for the Waikato east coast areas is that the tsunami is first expected at around high tide time.

Group controller Chris McLay said that on the east coast the tsunami is expected to primarily present a threat to craft at sea or people in the water as it is anticipated it will be under one metre high at this stage. No evacuations of residents are currently planned.

Mr McLay urged boaties and swimmers to stay out of the sea and for people to stay away from the coast and refrain from sightseeing. "People should listen carefully to radio and TV for updates on the situation and follow the instructions of Civil Defence authorities."

The tsunami could possibly pose a threat to people and structures on land if it turned out to be higher than expected. Information on the degree of threat on the Waikato’s east coast will be updated later this morning. The Group and its Thames Valley Emergency Operating Area will advise if evacuation is necessary.

The Group has formally activated to monitor the threat posed by the tsunami, provide necessary advice to the public and respond as required.

The Thames Valley EOA, which covers operations on the region’s east coast, has activated. The Waikato Valley Emergency Operating Area, which covers the region’s west coast, is on standby and the Southern Emergency Operating Area is on standby to assist.

Mr McLay stressed that tsunami could continue for some time after the initial one and this meant it was particularly important to stay tuned for advice on whether a threat still remained.

Mr McLay said Civil Defence would provide any relevant advice to people on the west coast as required. Currently it is estimated that only a small observable change in sea levels may occur on the west coast in the Waikato region.