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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

5 May 2006

Hunt encourages Pacific Nations to join Tsunami partnership at Melbourne conference

The magniture 7.8 earthquake located close to Tonga early Thursday morning is a timely reminder of the importance of effective tsunami warning and response procedures for all countries in the region. The event coincided with an international meeting of 70 Pacific Ocean Tsunami Warning experts in Melbourne from 25 countries aimed at enhancing the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, which was put into action during Thursday morning's event.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has encouraged 11 Pacific nations to join the Pacific Tsunami Warning System.

In a speech to the meeting Mr Hunt said: "I urge all Pacific Island States here to join the Pacific Tsunami Warning System as soon as possible."

"The Australian Government strongly encourages you to join the Pacific Tsunami Warning System as a means of improving safety for Pacific Islanders in the event of a major Tsunami event."

"We will do all that we can to help prepare, train and develop appropriate skills and protection mechanisms to assist the Pacific Islands to be part of a full Pacific Tsunami Warning System."

The Bureau is hosting several Pacific Island Countries during the meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, being held in Melbourne between 3-5 May.

"The conference is part of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) which is seeking to enhance the Pacific regions capacity to receive and respond to formal tsunami alerts," Mr Hunt said.

The IOC included all Pacific Island Countries in the Melbourne meeting, which was preceded, on 1 and 2 May, by specialist working groups coordinating technical and service developments, and a tsunami workshop for experts from island countries.

"This workshop has provided Australian Government agencies working in the field of Tsunami Warning Systems, an opportunity to assist their counterparts from the Pacific Island Countries to enhance the region's ability to forewarn a Tsunami or smaller earthquake event."

"Following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, the Australian Government allocated $68.9 million to a whole of government initiative for the development and operation of an Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS) which will contribute to the regional Indian Ocean and Pacific Warning Systems."

" After this meeting, Bureau, Geoscience Australia and Emergency Management Australia staff will travel to many South Pacific nations to upgrade and expand the existing tide gauge and seismic monitoring networks. The Bureau, in collaboration with other countries, will also deploy a number of deep ocean tsunami detection buoys in the region."

Mr Hunt also said that "The present warning system will be tested during a Pacific-wide tsunami simulation- "Exercise Pacific Wave 06"- planned for mid-May 2006. Australia, as a world leader in developing emergency response plans for severe meteorological events is well placed to take a lead role in the Pacific wide exercise."

The Pacific Nations encouraged to join the Pacific Tsunami Warning System are:

Media enquiries:
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 0415 740 722

Commonwealth of Australia