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Local MP stands by criticism

Wednesday 17 February 2010 | Published in Regional

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Aitutaki member of parliament Teina Bishop is standing his ground and defending his comments on what he believes was a slow response by government to the disaster on Aitutaki after it was struck by cyclone Pat on the night of Tuesday February 10.

“I’m not grandstanding! It’s my duty to speak out as a member of parliament for Aitutaki,” said Bishop yesterday.

Bishop is defending the comments he made on Radio New Zealand International on Monday at the speed of the response to the Aitutaki disaster.

“When we had our brief on Thursday afternoon in Aitutaki, Julie Affleck from the New Zealand High commission clearly told everyone there that they didn’t need a thorough report to request an emergency response from New Zealand,” said Bishop.

“The prime minister, cabinet ministers, the Aitutaki mayor and island council were at that meeting. Even the newspaper was there when Julie said that.”

“You don’t need a damn report to know that homes and people without roofs needed tarpaulins and shelter.”

“In fact, Charles Carlson told her he’d have the report on her desk before she returned to Rarotonga that day!”

Bishop said that government officials who visited the island last Thursday could have requested New Zealand assistance immediately.

“But it wasn’t until Saturday night when a formal request was made. So what did cabinet members fly over for?”

Bishop is even more disappointed to learn that Red Cross materials including tarpaulins and tents were sitting on Rarotonga for days before they finally reached the island.

“Why hasn’t government deployed the patrol boat (Te Kukupa) to bring over these materials?”

According to Bishop he was told that a letter he sent on behalf of the Aitutaki business community to the New Zealand High Commission on Friday February 12 requesting immediate relief to ensure the economy of Aitutaki survives the disaster – was the first formal request of help to New Zealand.