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19 July 2022

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Hope for the best – prepare for the worst

Tuesday 25 January 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Hope for the best – prepare for the worst
The Infrastructure Cook Islands Civil Works Division and Projects removing a tree trunk from the Avatiu stream near Raro Cars. PC: ICI. 22012146.

The hard work and dedication of all of our teams, combined with Government’s recent investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, has greatly lessened the storm’s impact on our communities, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

Kia Orana tatou

I hope everyone is safe and well after the wild weather conditions we all faced over the weekend.

While there has been a lot of clean up to do and in some cases damage to repair, I think we must give thanks to the Almighty for his protection over our country.  The tropical depression TD05F could easily have intensified to a fully named cyclone that could have caused significantly more damage and threat to life than it did. Luckily it did not and overall, I was very encouraged by how well our infrastructure stood up to what was a significant storm and again very high rainfall.

Having been out on the road and meeting with some of our frontline agencies during the weekend, I was very impressed as they went about their work, I was also impressed with the way these teams got the job done – restoring fallen power lines, clearing blocked streams and roadways, removing debris in the middle of the wind and rain, and keeping a close eye on our bridges, drains, culverts, roads and other key infrastructure.

To all of our government staff who worked through this weekend – from Emergency Management Cook Islands, our Police Service, Infrastructure Cook Islands, Te Aponga Uira, Airport and Ports staff and the Meteorological and others – I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your efforts.

We turn now to the clean up and again thanks go also to those who have already started the clean up efforts these past couple of days. The public service will be looking to release public servants to participate in community clean-ups especially around waterlogged sites and vegetation to reduce the risk of mosquitoes breeding and a potential dengue outbreak. We want everyone to chip in and do your bit.

The hard work and dedication of all of our teams, combined with Government’s recent investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, has greatly lessened the storm’s impact on our communities.

But there is always more that we still need to do. We cannot entirely escape the effects of these storms, with a number of homes suffering from flooding or roof damage and many of our growers’ crops adversely affected. It was recorded that 122mm of rain fell in the four-hour period of 12 noon to 4pm on Friday. So much water in a short time frame is what we have seen in previous years and can expect in the future with the effects of climate change. There is no chance for the water to flow to the sea quick enough so it backs up and causes flash flooding.

While we have made improvements in drainage, with more to come – things like strengthening and reconstructing bridges, upgrading road drainage, the use of gabion walls in at-risk coastal and stream areas, the raising of the Avatiu Port wharf frontage – have all proved to be immensely worthwhile expenditures that will continue protecting our communities for many years to come.

And they will need to.

As mentioned previously, this era of climate change it is more important than ever for us to continue our national investment in resilience measures and enduring infrastructure projects that can withstand whatever is thrown at them. The weather extremes we have just experienced have provided us with a snapshot of the possible impacts of climate change.

Accordingly, ensuring that the Cook Islands has comprehensive disaster preparedness procedures and protocols in place is high on the list of your government’s priorities. So while we will always hope for the best, it is also vital that we prepare for the worst.

We only have to look to our Pacific neighbours in Tonga to see what chaos and tragedy an unexpected event like the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano can cause.

Thousands have been displaced from their homes and many more are greatly in need of food and fresh water.

As they face the far-reaching impacts of the eruption and ensuing tsunami and ashfall, I know the thoughts and prayers of our nation are with the people of Tonga right now.

I was very happy to be able to present a cheque on all our behalf for $5000 to help kickstart our Cook Islands Red Cross Society’s Tonga Radiothon on Friday and it was heart-warming to see the donations continue to flow in throughout the day, with more than $20,000 raised in just six hours. If you would still like to make a donation, you can have a look on the Society’s Facebook page for details.

Kia Manuia.