1 Mar 2010

CD powers of arrest needed by councils - mayor

3:16 pm on 1 March 2010

Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey says surf lifesavers and council officers need to have the power to arrest people who ignore warnings during civil emergencies.

Mr Harvey says hundreds of irresponsible swimmers flocked to Piha on Sunday, despite Civil Defence urging them to stay away due to a tsunami warning issued for New Zealand following a 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile.

Lifeguard Anna Schubert says they ignored the tsunami warning signs and announcements.

Mr Harvey says swimmers were not the only problem - some Auckland boaties ignored warnings from council officers to stay out of the water.

Mr Harvey says lifeguards and council officers need to have powers to compel and arrest swimmers and boaties to heed Civil Defence warnings.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter is also critical of those who ignored the warnings to stay away from beaches.

On Morning Report, he described those who ignored the warnings as stupid, and said the Government will look into what can be done to ensure people take heed of the warnings.

Better alert system wanted

A North Shore City Council member wants a more reliable tsunami warning system for Auckland after what he claims was the failure of the alert system.

Cr. Chris Darby says he received an alert at 7.20am morning but the automated phone call told him it was only a tsunami alert practice message.

He went back to sleep after answering the phone.

Mr Darby says the call was not followed up with a correction and he was first made aware of the true situation when he heard radio news later in the morning.

He says the the failure of Civil Defence to load the correct message could have had dire consequences.

Maritime radios urged

Maritime New Zealand says the tsunami threat highlights the need for all recreational boaties to install marine radios.

Marine authorities rushed to warn boat users were warned of the threat and to take appropriate action.

But Maritime NZ says there would have been boaties at sea without radios, who were unaware of the warnings.

Recreational boating manager Jim Lott says having a radio would have allowed them to tune into messages being issued by Civil Defence.

He says boaties who do not have VHF radios are putting themselves at risk.