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Councils need to do something about tsunamis

Monday, 7 February 2005

Wellington Councils need to do something about tsunamis says prominent engineer

The core of Wellington’s CBD is at threat, but do we have the necessary coastal defenses to protect it? How well do we understand the threat of a Tsunami to the Wellington region and how prepared should we be?

Dr Alastair Barnett, a Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers (IPENZ), believes the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council need to give tsunamis the same attention given to comparable hazards such as floods and earthquakes.

Dr Barnett is a Hydraulic Modelling Engineer and a renowned leader in tsunami hazard control design. He will be one of three speakers at the Wellington IPENZ Branch Meeting to speak on the effect a tsunami may have on our coastline and the impact on our infrastructure. The meeting will be held on Thursday, 24th February 2005 at 5:45pm in the Lambton Room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Wellington.

“It has been mooted we should upgrade our early warning systems, and while this should reduce casualties, it would do almost nothing to reduce the economic impacts from damage to infrastructure and housing. We need to make allowances for tsunami hazards a routine part of planning for development,” he said.

“One such way is stop-banks. Since the 1960 tsunami the Japanese have shown that ordinary stop-banks provide highly effective tsunami protection, however, a methodology is still needed to design a suitable height for such stop-banks. Fortunately New Zealand is a world leader on tsunami design because of our computer technology which has studied the movement of artificial tsunamis at almost full-scale by using New Zealand’s large hydro-electric power canals to model the tsunami’s behavior.

“We have been able to follow one metre-high waves in 10 metre-deep water for 25 kilometres with laboratory precision, giving us the opportunity to refine our numerical modelling techniques,” he said.

“The New Zealand government also needs to expand the building code flood provisions to take explicit account of tsunami inundation. At present there is provision in the building code for earthquake design and river flood risk assessment – but coastal flooding has been ignored. Councils should withhold building consents on flood-prone properties in coastal areas just as much as in river floodplains,” said Dr Barnett.

“In matters such as natural hazards, New Zealand has its own unique problems so instead of looking outward to Great Britain and beyond we must make our own engineering decisions and rely on our own technology. New Zealand can show the way in this engineering practice, allowing us to contribute relevant practical experience towards leading improved tsunami responses in other countries with comparable hazard conditions,”said Dr Barnett. Tsunami speakers….2 2/ Tsunami speakers

Speakers: Dr Alastair Barnett FIPENZ, is a Hydraulic Modelling Engineer, and his firm Barnett & MacMurray Ltd are world leaders in tsunami hazard control, and will be describing the implications of providing inundation protection. He was a consultant for our very own Te Papa.

Dr William Power, a Scientist with GNS and has done modelling of tsunami waves entering Wellington Harbour, and will explain the earthquake mechanisms for triggering a tsunami.

Dr James Goff, Geoenvironmental Consultant, will be describing the tsunami inundation of the Wellington Coastline.

Date and Venue Date: Thursday, 24th February 2005 Time: 5:45pm – 7:15pm Presentation Venue: Lambton Room Intercontinental Wellington, Cnr Grey & Featherston St, Wellington
RSVP: By Monday 21st February 2005 Andrew Clark
email aclark@ipenz.org.nz or phone 04 4748986


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