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Henderson says to ‘hold out a bit longer’ for aid distribution

Tuesday 30 March 2010 | Published in Regional

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Aid Management division manager Garth Henderson has been working closely with the Aitutaki Cyclone Appeal Committee to determine the most effective way of distributing aid money to those affected by Cyclone Pat.

Henderson’s experience in aid management and his involvement with the government’s recovery project makes him the ideal candidate for the job of adviser to the ACA committee.

He applauded the members of the committee for their fundraising efforts and their drive to maintain integrity throughout the whole process.

“They’ve been very careful about collecting funds and accounting (for) them and banking them,” he said.

Audit director Paul Allsworth said that the audit report on ACA books should be available next week. He said that Audit staff are busy going through their records – a service that they have resolved to contribute to the cause.

“The work my staff is doing is our contribution to Aitutaki – we have a social responsibility to the community so there’s no charge,” Allsworth said.

Henderson said he’s heard the “talk-back” surrounding the lump of money sitting in the ACA account, but encourages the public to “hold out a bit longer”.

“When people want aid, you have to be analytical because you’re dealing with public funds and because you need to get the best return on your expenditures,” he said. “At the same time I’ve been very aware there’s urgency and needs on the ground so we can’t really spend too much time analysing. We need to be decisive at some point.”

He said that although he recognises the need to get the ball rolling, it’s important that he and the ACA committee spend the money wisely.

“The people gave us this money and we assume they want us to spend it well, to spend it on people that were most affected and to be sure it provides lasting benefits,” he said. “We have an obligation to these people to put their money to good use.”

Henderson said that government’s plan for the reconstruction of Aitutaki is “not bad” and said that it’s important to “recognise that the core financial needs of recovery will be met by government”.

The ACA money can then “fill in the gaps” that remain after government does its part.

The committee is waiting for NZAID to release its aid package – a move which is pending an NZ expert’s assessment that is expected to be finished this week – before it can identify such ‘gaps’.

He was not downplaying the ACA contribution – which he called the “biggest amount raised in such a period of time” – but he did say that it’s just a ‘drop in the pool’, as the recovery will cost close to $10 million.

It will be useful to cover the costs that the government recovery plan overlooks.

For example, Henderson said, if a government house is too small for a large family, perhaps the ACA money can be put towards expanding it.

He said he’s happy to work with Internal Affairs to determine which members of the community “lack family support and income opportunities” and therefore need aid most desperately.

Henderson said that he and the ACA committee have toyed with the idea of going to Aitutaki to see for themselves what it’s like and where aid would be most useful, but pledged not to dip into the ACA fund for airfare and accommodation purposes.

“We’re talking about funding the trip ourselves,” he said. “We’re not going to use public money for that.”