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Let Aitutaki decide, says MP

Thursday 18 March 2010 | Published in Regional

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The Aitutaki people who lost their homes in Cyclone Pat should decide how they rebuild, says Arutanga/Reureu/Nikaupara Member of Parliament Teina Bishop.

He says he understood where mayor Tai Herman was coming from when he declared the island council rejects the Habitat For Humanity NZ offer to build $18,000 kitset Lockwood homes for Aitutaki.

“I share his frustration. Habitat homes are an option but if a home owner is willing to take the time to build a home they want then they should be able to do that. The people should not be tied down to these package deals – I think that’s where the mayor is coming from.”

After the announcement of government’s $9.46 million recovery plan nearly two weeks ago, the people who owned the 72 homes destroyed in the disaster still do not know when the housing project will begin.

“It should not be up to the island council, MPs, or cabinet to decide what homes the people want. It should be up to the home owners to choose. We should only be there to guide them through the options, because at the end of the day it’s their decision,” he says.

Under the plan, government is supposed to be offering the ‘Category 4’ families a $35,000 grant to rebuild.

Bishop, when asked by CI News yesterday, said he did not know how many ‘Category 4’ properties are in his constituency; nor how many of these families want Habitat For Humanity homes.

Despite being promised by recovery minister Wilkie Rasmussen, there has been no list of Category 1 (minimal damage) to Category 4 homes provided to the island council or the MPs.

Bishop is certain of one thing – people want strong, quality homes to be built in the wake of the devastating cyclone.

“We don’t want to build a shelter -- we want to build a home. We don’t want a home that is one step up from a tent. There’s a big difference between a shelter and a home.”

Bishop says the people should be able to take the $35,000 grant and use it to build a home of their choice. He says one of the proposals to government was for those receiving the grant to be able to use it to secure an additional amount from the bank in the form of a loan to use to rebuild.

Bishop says he had a good meeting with the Habitat For Humanity representatives and says they were going to look at how to include basic electrical wiring and plumbing into the homes they are offering.

The MP says if there are other housing options, these should also be put to the people to decide on – including the possibility of a Chinese-built option.

On Tuesday Herman told CI News that the volunteer labour that Habitat is offering is fine, but the island council is opposed to the offer of kitset homes.

Rasmussen has said cabinet is still considering the offer and will probably reach a decision this week.