Fiji: Kiwi families still helping cyclone victims

Hon Marian Hobbs

Five New Zealand containers of canned food, clothing, bedding, stationery, kitchen materials and water tanks have already arrived in Fiji to help victims of January's Cyclone Ami and more are on their way, Aid Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

Marian Hobbs and Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff are in Fiji and have visited Labasa, an area hit hard by the cyclone. The ministers are leading a delegation of New Zealand MPs, business people, academics and non-government organisations to Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

"One of our delegation, Sai Lealea from the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, organised for gifts and provisions from Fijian New Zealand families to be loaded onto NZAID-funded shipping containers. That was back in March. Now here we are in Fiji and it's great to see that the containers are arriving," Marian Hobbs said.

Sai Lealea will meet in Suva today with officials distributing the provisions.

"The reaction from New Zealand families has been overwhelming. Not only Fijian New Zealanders, but the whole Pacific Island community and other Kiwis from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington have given provisions to fill the containers," Sai Lealea said.

There are plans to send two more containers - one from Nelson, the other from the central North Island.

"I find it very heartening that New Zealand families have been so ready to put their hand in their own pockets and help our neighbours in the Pacific," Marian Hobbs said.

"It's been a sobering experience to see the effects of the cyclone in Labasa - 3000 homes ruined, people killed and infrastructure like roads and schools damaged. It takes a long time to recover from that sort of devastation. But knowing that there are still friends and family in New Zealand prepared to help is a huge morale boost for the people here."

NZAID provided $20,000 for containers and shipping costs after the New Zealand Fijian community approached the department for help. Everything inside the containers has been donated by New Zealanders. Pacific Island Affairs coordinated the collection of goods with the help of community radio and Niu FM.