A low-cost rain and flood warning device called "George", created by a group of Hastings students, has potential to save lives and properties, Hawke's Bay Civil Defence says.
The device, which monitors rainfall and floodwaters and sends real-time updates by text message to a mobile phone, was created by a group of St John's College students as part of their Young Enterprise Scheme project.
They came up with the idea after a friend was affected by flooding in the small Hawke's Bay community of Eskdale in March.
"We thought, how can we prevent other people and property from being affected by these events," co-inventor Ben Gardiner said.
"George" is housed in ordinary PCV piping that can be found in any hardware store, and the computer programme the student built then sends that information in a text message to a mobile phone.
Similar devices currently on the market cost about $1500 each and only monitored either rainfall or floodwaters, whereas George did both for $300, co-inventor Brad Selwood said.
Napier City and Hastings District councils, a local vineyard and a property owner had already bought the devices, and fertiliser company Ravensdown signed up as a commercial partner to help develop it further.
There was huge potential for farming customers to use the device, Ravensdown regional manager George Williams said.
"Most farmers are affected by a lot of weather events so if we can preempt that, that will give us a chance to mitigate some of that risk."
Hawke's Bay Civil Defence community engagement manager Jae Sutherland was also excited about how it could be used by those living in flood-prone areas.
"A lot of our farms are in areas where there are potential floods, so farmers need to know when it's time to move stock and also for people who live in houses near rivers as well."
As part of their wider mission to find a low-cost way to protect communities vulnerable to adverse weather events, the students were hoping test George in Samoa later this year.