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Government Ignores Lessons Of Tangiwai

Government Ignores Lessons Of Tangiwai

"It is hypocritical of Helen Clark to participate in the memorial events marking 50 years since the Tangiwai disaster when her Government is ignoring the lessons of history," says National's Environment spokesman Nick Smith.

The Government has been advised that a lahar, 54% larger than that which occurred in 1953, is due in the next three years and that a small-scale excavation at the crater lake, costing only $200,000, could remove this risk.

The official report says: 'Scientists predict that the resulting lahar from a tephra dam collapse could be large enough to damage and possibly destroy the road and rail bridges over the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai. The public toilets and Tangiwai Memorial there plus the Strachan's Road Bridge downstream would be destroyed and there would also be scouring at approaches to the road bridge. Power pylons between the Wahianoa Aqueduct and State Highway 1 would probably be severely damaged.'

It further states: 'Anyone walking or working beside or near the Whangaehu River or rafting or kayaking it at the time of the lahar would be at great danger unless they could get out of the way fast enough'.

"The Government's sensitivity over Maori spiritual values and its aversion to doing earthworks in the National Park, has led to the rejection of a commonsense solution to excavate the dam created in the 1996 eruption," says Dr Smith.

"The warning system and bunds are an expensive and poor solution that attempts to control the deadly lahar rather than prevent it. They are playing Russian roulette with people's lives in the name of political correctness.

"It is an insult to the 151 people who died on Christmas Eve in 1953 that everything possible is not being done today to prevent a repeat of that tragedy.

"I will hold the Government responsible for any loss of life or infrastructure damage from a repeat lahar, because right now it is within their powers to remove this risk," Dr Smith concluded.

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