News | 21 April 2020
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Owhiro Bay wave damage debrief

Mayor Andy Foster says he will ask for a formal debrief on the issues relating to last week’s emergency when huge waves from Cook Strait caused havoc in Owhiro Bay.

Mayor Foster last night took part in a short but “tremendously valuable” videoconference organised by local resident Eugene Doyle and the Owhiro Bay Residents’ Association as a response to last Wednesday’s events.

Among the participants in the meeting were local residents, ward Councillors Fleur Fitzsimons and Laurie Foon, GWRC Chair Daran Ponter and representatives from Police, NIWA and the City Council.

Issues covered included the lack of warning that the 6-metre swells were on their way; the emergency response itself; communications and cooperation between the residents themselves and with emergency services and the Council; welfare; and the future resilience of the seaside properties in Owhiro Bay and other coastal communities in the region.

Mayor Foster said it was fantastic to hear how the community pulled together and worked with Police, the Council and contractors as the waves crashed over the seaside roads and into properties last Wednesday morning. “People risked their lives as they went to help their neighbours.”

However the lack of warning that the waves were coming is something he wants to discuss – given residents criticised the lack of communication between the likes of NIWA, emergency services and the City Council.

“The deep low – the storm – that generated these swells was something like 1000 kilometres to the south of Wellington and there was hardly a breath of wind here – no wonder no-one on the south coast was expecting trouble.

“We want to know if there’s a better way of passing on this knowledge to local communities.”

Mayor Foster says he would expect interested agencies including NIWA, MetService, the National Emergency Management Agency and the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office to be part of the briefing – along with residents and councils.

Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons says the residents deserve the most up to date information and analysis so they can protect themselves and their properties.

“We heard from the NIWA scientists that that they have wave modelling data that could help the Council and residents. Council officers have already contacted NIWA to ensure that the Council can access the most up to date and useful information when storm damage is likely, we must make sure this happens in the future.

"Residents deserve the most up to date information and analysis on potential waves, including likely damage, so that preparation is possible.

"The Council needs to work with NIWA and the local community to ensure that all options for protecting people and property are implemented.”

Mayor Foster says he will ask for a formal debrief to be held as soon as possible after the Covid-19 lockdown ends.