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$5.5m from NZ

Saturday 13 March 2010 | Published in Regional


New Zealand yesterday announced a $5.5 million reconstruction package for Aitutaki.

NZ foreign minister Murray McCully issued a statement yesterday saying the package was a substantial contribution to the Cook Islands government recovery and reconstruction plan.

But the contribution falls short of finance minister Wilkie Rasmussen’s estimation that NZ would provide an $8-10 million aid package.

Last week government proposed a $9.46 million plan to be carried out over the next 12 months, putting $2.7 million in available funding from the budget into the first stages of the plan.

NZ has already provided $350,000 for emergency relief efforts as well as a Hercules and engineering team to support local efforts in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone last month.

“Cyclone Pat caused serious devastation on Aitutaki. Around 80 percent of the houses on the island were affected in some way, and 72 were completely destroyed,” McCully said.

“Funding will be made available through a grant scheme for the purchase of construction materials to repair damaged homes. There will also be significant support for the rebuilding of destroyed houses. The details of this support are currently being finalised with the Cook Islands government and will be announced next week.

“The reconstruction package will also meet the cost of improving cyclone shelters and early warning systems to ensure the Aitutaki community is better prepared in the future,” said McCully.

He acknowledged that tourism on Aitutaki is a vital income source for the country.

“Our assistance will help get things back to ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible, and ensure the economy does not suffer long-term effects.”

McCully said support will be provided for the removal of debris and the restoration of essential public infrastructure, including the hospital, schools and water supply.

The funding will come from the joint New Zealand and Australian development assistance programme for the Cook Islands.

CINews has asked Rasmussen to respond to questions on government’s contingency plan to make up the funding shortfall but he was unable to provide comment yesterday.