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Good news for Aitutaki

Saturday 6 March 2010 | Published in Regional


Recovery plan brings

a message of hope

Government has given Aitutaki a message of hope – announcing a $9.46 million cyclone recovery and reconstruction plan.

It aims to move quickly to undertake a $5 million housing project to repair and completely restore almost 300 homes on the island damaged by Cyclone Pat last month.

Yesterday finance minister and recovery coordinator Wilkie Rasmussen took the 12-month recovery plan to the people of Aitutaki.

Those who heard about the plan were relieved and grateful to hear what they described as the good news they had been waiting for.

Rasmussen met with Aitutaki’s mayor, island council, business sector, and general public to tell them that not only would government use $2.7 million of its own funds, but the New Zealand government has already committed almost $4 million in initial funding so that the housing project and other forms of assistance can begin now.

The minister travelled to Aitutaki with advisor Tamarii Pierre and UNDP disaster risk management advisor Moortaza Jiwanji and a CI News reporter.

The minister announced the NZ government will contribute $8-10 million towards carrying out the recovery and reconstruction plan endorsed by cabinet on Thursday.

Aitutakians were most interested in what kind of funding they would get to assist them in repairing and rebuilding 78 percent of the island’s homes.

Housing grants will be provided in four categories with owners of about 72 homes in category four (completely destroyed) to receive a grant of up to $35,000 to help them build a basic one-bedroom home within the next 12 months.

Rasmussen said he did not support the idea of kitset homes, but instead government will look at suitable designs which can be built by the people – keeping funds spent on construction in the economy.

The first two categories – about 110 homes – which have minor damage up to 50 percent will receive a maximum of a $7500 grant each. Government will provide $825,000 in initial assistance to make sure these grants are paid out over the next two months.

Those who have homes in category three (51-75 percent damaged) can look forward to a grant of up to $15,000 to help them carry out repairs.

Rasmussen says the grants will be provided on the basis that home owners will be reimbursed the amounts they spend on materials to repair and rebuild.

The minister says the plan is a ‘living document’ which government can only hope to improve on.

Initial government assessments on the cost of repair and reconstruction of all damaged homes was around $15 million or $21 million including labour, so it has been acknowledged that the $4 million in housing grants will not cover everything.

“I believe the cost will be much more than is estimated, than is planned, because this is a living thing. But I think funding can be covered.”

NZAID is likely to cover the cost of an independent project manager to be brought in to the Cooks to oversee the housing project.

“Some repair work has already been started by the people but for categories three and four we need a much more concerted effort. We need labour, skilled carpenters. You already have some here but we plan to assist with this,” Rasmussen told the island council.

Housing and infrastructure are priorities but the plan will fund activities for social services, local economic recovery and disaster risk management planning.

“We have a task at hand – I believe we can achieve this if we can work together,” Rasmussen told Aitutaki.

Full details of the recovery plan – Cook Islands News next week.