Northland tsunami siren network testing early April

16 Mar 2017, 3:40 PM

Tsunami sirens from Te Hapua to Mangawhai will be tested when daylight saving ends early next month.

The 160-plus Northland sirens will sound on the morning of Sunday 02 April as part of regular twice-yearly checks to ensure they’re all working correctly.

Victoria Randall, spokesperson for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, says sirens around the region will sound twice – firstly at 9.20am for 10 minutes and again at 10am for just 30 seconds.

“Civil Defence community groups or local council staff will monitor the sirens at these times, reporting any faults for repair.”

Ms Randall says the siren network – 91 in the Whangarei district, 58 in the Far North and 14 in the Kaipara district – has been set up to alert coastal communities in the event of a tsunami warning.

The shoebox-sized units, each with its own siren, flashing light and distinctive blue and yellow Civil Defence logo, are attached to Northpower or Top Energy power poles in communities along the coast.

Eight new tsunami sirens will be part of the early April testing as part of ongoing efforts to build the region’s coverage.

The new sirens are at the Marsden Cove Marina (Finch St), Matapouri (Ringer Ave), Ngunguru (Shoebridge Cres), Oakura (Te Kapua St), One Tree Point (Shearwater St), Whangarei (Ewing Rd) and Whangarei Heads (Little Munroe Bay and Manganese Point).

Ms Randall says the flashing lights are blue on all but one of the 163 sirens; the sole exception is Tutukaka Harbour’s marina tsunami siren, which has a yellow light designed to be more visible to boats using that area.  (Tsunami events in recent years have noticeably impacted on Tutukaka Harbour’s tides and currents.)

“To hear what tsunami sirens sound like visit or for more about civil defence generally visit the Northland Regional Council, Far North, Kaipara or Whangarei District Council websites.”

Ms Randall says in a real tsunami warning, tsunami sirens are an indicator to local communities to seek further information.

“It’s really important those who hear the sirens pass the alert on to others too,” Ms Randall says.

“It’s about communities quickly working together to keep themselves safe.”

Northland already has more tsunami sirens than any other region in the country and the number of sirens is continuing to increase after last November’s Kaikoura earthquake and resulting tsunami warning, Ms Randall says.

“We’re expanding the tsunami siren network to help maximise the number of people that hear alerting from this source, and of course, we want people to pass those alerts on to others.

“We look at vulnerable areas with high population densities within tsunami evacuation zones and go from there. It’s not practically possible or appropriate to have tsunami sirens installed in every beach, bay or stretch of Northland coast.”

Tsunami sirens are among a range of alerting options people can use to build their own purpose-designed suite of alerting options that works best for their needs.

These tsunami alerting options also include:

  • Northland Civil Defence Facebook page warning notifications (‘like’ this page for direct-to-your Facebook page notifications)
  • Red Cross Hazard app smartphone alerts
  • Local radio
  • Community phone trees
  • Informal notifications from neighbours and friends
  • Social media generally

“People should, for a start, find out if they live, work or play in a tsunami evacuation zone. They can do this by going to

“They should also work out where they’re going to evacuate to if necessary, how they’ll get to that evacuation point, time how long the evacuation will take and consider how they’ll keep in touch with family and friends if evacuated.”

Ms Randall says coastal households in tsunami evacuation areas need to plan well in advance, particularly for tsunami generated on or close to New Zealand’s coast. They need to know natural warning signs – earthquakes (either strong with shaking ground or weak and rolling lasting at least a minute), unusual sea behaviour including a sudden sea level fall or rise and/or loud and unusual sea noises, particularly roaring like a jet engine.