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Tsunami siren rebuff alarming Onetangi

DIANA WORTHY
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014
Onetangi residents

STRONG FEELINGS: Onetangi residents gather to express dismay Waiheke is not getting sirens.

Barry Woods and Margaret Mills
ONGOING CONCERNS: Onetangi Residents Association’s Barry Woods and Margaret Mills say Auckland Council continues to ignore Waiheke’s visitor numbers and vulnerability.

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A helicopter will be used to help clear beaches if a tsunami ever strikes Waiheke Island.

But residents fear the system, confirmed by Auckland Council civil defence manager Clive Manley on Friday, is not good enough and are calling for the installation of warning sirens already in place on the mainland.

Manley says the service will be provided by Westpac emergency helicopter crews and will work with fire and police to clear beaches.

It will be operational from August and carry advanced technology to enable clear broadcasts. There will also be text alerts and auto-dialling messages for people with landlines.

But Onetangi residents say that's not good enough and want to know why Waiheke is not getting sirens instead.

"So how much is sending a helicopter going to cost each time?" residents association spokeswoman Margaret Mills says.

"And what happens if the weather is bad? Sirens have to be cheaper."

The association's civil defence spokesman Barry Woods says Waiheke's 45,000 summer visitors would be unaware of any telephone alert system and at special risk.

"Once again, Waiheke is getting second best even though we're going to get hit more than the mainland people because we'll be the first target of a tsunami.

"Clive Manley says we don't have enough ratepayers to justify the cost of sirens but Onetangi is the only beach that would need two, the others only one."

But Manley maintains the text and auto-dialling system is best for Waiheke and says a leaflet has been sent to all homes advising residents how to register.

"When you get a close earthquake, you can't rely on any siren. The experience is when you install sirens, they are going to go off so people stop listening to them.

"But I'm not saying we'll never put them in."

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