Rongowhakaata tsunami plan will save their most vulnerable whānau

By Taroi Black

Rongowhakaata have identified holes in the current emergency plans for the rohe. Current procedures do not have evacuation steps in place for kaumātua who live outside of cell-phone coverage and our hauā community.  

To address this take, Tairawhiti iwi want to create an emergency protocol in the wake of Gisborne District Council’s tsunami report.

Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust chair Moera Brown told Te Āo Māori News that two marae, Whakatō and Manutuke will be open to whanau when disasters come, “It’s just a matter of ensuring to give that support to the particular marae in respect of providing that service and resource.”  

Manutuke Marae used for whānau to take refuge / Source Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust

Rongowhakaata have been with iwi such as Ngai Tāmanuhiri, who engaged with Indonesian emergency services after the Boxing Day tsunami two days short of 15 years ago. An estimated 225,000 from ten countries died that day.

The Gisborne District Council's updated report on the Tsunami Evacuation Areas was due for completion in February 2020. GNS Science completed the report ahead of schedule. It is not known whether the report was completed early because of Whakaari eruption.

The red and orange zones indicated tsunami risks from near or far, yellow indicates the inundation generated from an 8.9 earthquake within the local Hikurangi Subduction Zone. In the event of a tsunami, you only have 15 minutes to evacuate before the surge’s come.

“We've just started to have discussions on how we can plan ahead for our people in Manutuke,” Moera Brown explains.

Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust are breaking new grounds and setting an example for others to follow. Their main objective is ensuring the safety of all kaumātua within the Gisborne district.

Firstly, Rongowhakaata are working to find where a lot of these Nannies and Koros live. Second is to determine who would need evacuation assistance. Third, is to work with emergency services to reach them in the event of a tsunami.

“We were reviewing the Civil Defence plan and as a result we decided to nominate the two kaimahi.”

These two kaimahi working for the local iwi are based in Manutuke. They are responsible for implementing the Civil Defence plan.

The other concern for the iwi is the welfare of their tangata hauā (disabled people).

“We’ve been having conversations with local policemen and the local fire services how we can co-ordinate our knowledge.”

He aha te tsunami (tai āniwhaniwha)?

Tsunami are series of waves, known as an inundation or a serge, that can travel as fast as jet planes, that are caused by Rūāumoko’s movements under the moana. Earthquakes, underwater volcanic eruptions, and submarine landslides can start these waves. The Gisborne District Councils report predicted a 10 meter wave could come. The speed of tai āniwhaniwha depends on ocean depth rather than the distance from Ruamoko’s movements.

Warning Message: If an earthquake is longer than one minute and its strong enough to throw you to the ground, self-evacuate. The Civil Defence message is simple, “If its long or strong get gone.”

How to Prepare for Disasters

  • Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust +64 6 862 8086