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Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith today announced initial funding of up to $3 million to develop and enhance GeoNet’s natural hazards monitoring capability and response service.

The funding will support GeoNet - New Zealand’s official geological hazard information service - to further develop New Zealand’s hazards monitoring tools.

While GeoNet’s current monitoring and response service includes a network of automated sensors and on-call seismologists to assess data, a number of opportunities to strengthen the current response system were identified in the wake of the November 14 earthquakes.

Strengthening New Zealand’s monitoring capability could include improvements to existing infrastructure as well as research into improved sensors, models and approaches.

“It’s important we have the ability to get warnings about potential emergencies out to New Zealanders as quickly as possible, to enable them to take appropriate action,” Mr Brownlee says.

“GeoNet plays a key role advising on the need for warnings about natural emergencies such as tsunami, and a well-funded GeoNet service has long been a priority for the government.

“Work is already underway, led by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, on scoping a 24/7 warning centre that would involve multiple agencies monitoring a range of hazards.

“This work will continue but, in the meantime, enhancing GeoNet’s capacity to provide a timely response is an important priority.”

Mr Goldsmith says GeoNet issued a response within 3 minutes of the Kaikoura earthquake.

“It immediately stood up a response team that delivered advice not only to officials but to the New Zealand public through its website, app and social media channels.

“Early, accurate information is important for public safety and emergency response, so the government is investing to strengthen GeoNet’s ability to provide immediate and comprehensive information on earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.”

Initial funding has been appropriated from MBIE’s Strategic Science Investment Fund.

Both Ministers say while the government is committed to improving our capability to deliver better warnings, New Zealanders need to remember that for events such as earthquake-generated tsunami, there may be no time to issue warnings.

People near the coast should familiarise themselves with maps provided by local councils showing areas at risk of tsunami. They should also heed natural warnings - if you feel a long or strong quake, head immediately inland or to higher ground.

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