Tsunami Awareness Project

13 February 2011

It's one thing to know that if you live in a low-lying part of Wellington your home might be under threat from a tsunami - and another to know how far inland and uphill a tsunami could potentially reach.

Painting on the new Island Bay tsunami indicator

Painting on the new Island Bay tsunami indicator

That's the thinking a group of Island Bay residents came up with when they were asked to develop the best way to make their community more tsunami-aware.

They suggested that a blue line drawn on the road would be a great way to make the tsunami threat real to the community. The idea came out of a six-month working project, when the residents' group worked with the Council's Emergency Management Office (WEMO) and GNS Science.

As a result, a series of blue lines have recently been painted across some streets in Island Bay marking the tsunami safety zone. Once people cross the line and move uphill they are likely to be safe from tsunami generated by a large local earthquake.

The combined group also identified evacuation routes, safe locations in the event of a tsunami and other signs aimed at educating the community about tsunami risk.

The Council's Emergency Preparedness Manager, Fred Mecoy, says the pilot project is unique in that the community has developed innovative solutions that will work for them, and has come up with some creative ideas.

"Because we have engaged directly with the community from the outset, we had a much more diverse set of ideas - such as the idea of the 'blue line safe zone'.

"The idea behind it was to clearly mark out a safe zone and to create something that would encourage word-of-mouth interest in the community and ongoing education about tsunamis."

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who holds the Emergency Management portfolio, says the community-level approach will help raise awareness.

"Residents and visitors living on or near the South Coast and around the region's coastline are at risk of being overwhelmed by a quake-generated tsunami and they need to know what to do.

"Involving local people in developing solutions to the problem, and innovative ones at that, will help educate the community about the risks and actions they need to take.

"People should think and plan on how they  will get themselves, their families and their neighbours to safety as quickly and easily as possible."

The project has attracted international interest from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in the United States and could potentially be rolled-out across the city.

Fred says the threat of tsunami in Wellington is relatively high with our earthquake risk, long coastline and low-lying areas of the city.

"We only need to look at the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake, which generated a tsunami of up to five metres in several locations in Wellington.

In geological terms this is not that long ago.

"Obviously other parts of the city are at risk from a tsunami too so we are interested in talking with other communities that would like to work with us on a similar education project."

For more information, phone (04) 460 0650, email wemo@wcc.govt.nz or visit the Emergency Management section of this website:

Emergency Management