The 11-member delegation arrived in the country on Monday and was led by Nicci Stillwell, who manages the New Zealand government’s Humanitarian and Disaster Management Unit.
The main aim of their visit was to ensure that staff at the NZHC understood what to do in the event of a natural disaster, such as a tropical cyclone.
Helping NZHC staff better understand the capabilities of the New Zealand government in an emergency and how they might share those capabilities with the Cook Islands government if necessary was also important, said Stillwell.
“So if the Cook Islands government needs assistance, they can request assistance from us – because we’re always coming in behind Pacific governments,” she explained.
“We’re not sort of coming in to save the day – they can run their own response and it’s just if it’s beyond their capabilities, we want to support their response and give them some assistance.
“And if the Cook Islands government says, ‘Hey, we’ve got this’, then we say, ‘Fantastic, go to it’, but we are there to support and assist if needed.”
Stillwell said that assistance could come in the form of medical support, search and rescue resources, structural integrity assessment, and a host of other capabilities.
“My sense is that the Cook Islands are very well-prepared – you have really good systems in place,” said Stillwell.
“For example you have really good drought monitoring – because my team doesn’t just do tropical cyclones, it’s any type of humanitarian disaster, which can include slow onset things such as droughts.”
Stillwell said her team was also interested to hear about the situation in the outer islands, and the processes and emergency plans they have in place to deal with natural disasters.
“Obviously there’s quite a large geographic area here and we want to make sure that our assistance would also be able to get out,” she said.
“So understanding what’s available in terms of getting to some of those outer areas by sea, or by the landing strips available, has been a really useful learning for us, just to get a sense of what the realities are here on the ground.”
Joining Stillwell were representatives from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the New Zealand Defence Force, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
After two days of training with NZHC personnel, members from Stillwell’s team also met with Health Secretary Dr Aumea Herman and toured the hospital, as well as meeting representatives from government’s Pa Enua division, the Cook Islands Police, Emergency Management Cook Islands, the volunteer fire service and Red Cross.