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Tautu Village in Aitutaki, Cook Islands strengthens disaster and climate resilience

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Tautu village in Aitutaki, Cook Islands now has completed a disaster and climate resilience pilot project. It was developed with support from the Finland-Pacific (FINPAC) Project which aims to reduce the vulnerability of the livelihoods of Pacific islanders to the impacts of climate change through strengthening the Meteorological Services.

The project has resulted in a number of outcomes including a Climate and Disaster Resilience Plan designed with input from the community to guide them on actions to take in case of an emergency weather hazard. This also saw the construction of tsunami evacuation, fire and drought monitoring and wind speed signs in place, and a new siren for emergencies ready for use.

The FINPAC Project is a partnership between the Government of Finland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). In the case of Tautu, FINPAC also partnered with the Cook Islands Red Cross Society, the Emergency Management Cook Islands and the Cook Islands Meteorological Service and World Meteorological Organization through Environment Canada.

After over a year of planning and village consultations a handover ceremony marking the completion of the pilot project was held in July this year.

"We are so grateful to the Tautu village who worked together with the Cook Islands Red Cross to input and comment upon the plan, without their buy-in and input, this plan is just that – a plan. We are glad that there is ownership of this plan so that when it is needed, they will be prepared to use it," said Dr Netatua Pelesikoti, the Director of Climate Change.

"Even though this handover marks the end of the formal partnership between FINPAC and the village, it is the beginning of a new journey for you. It is now the opportunity for you to take it on and use your Climate and Disaster Resilience Plan to lobby for funding support to help you with other preparedness activities required."

The siren to help notify urgent movement in times of hazards, upgrades to the Tautu Community Evacuation Centres, emergency kits for the Tautu Disaster Committee, provision of information boards on wind speed and the relevant actions to be taken by communities and colour coded fire and drought monitoring wheels were presented during a special ceremony in Tautu.

Partners also witnessed the preparation activities now complete including the 'tie-down' of rooves completed for 80% of the households in Tautu. Plans are also in place to plant trees in the schools and along the coast.

The special day ended with a drill putting into practise the new siren and to see how the village will put the new draft plan into place using their new equipment.

"The community spirit in helping to complete this project in Tautu, was very strong – it has helped us achieve much, together, that can help ensure the members of Tautu are better prepared for weather hazards," said Ms. Christina Leala-Gale, the FINPAC Project Manager at SPREP.

"We are so happy to be able to hand over this equipment for the community, the items stem from needs and gaps, as well as solutions, identified by Tautu to help them be more prepared for disasters."

The completion of the community project was finalised with the handover ceremony in Tautu Village, Aitutaki on 26 July.