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NZ firms up commitment to Aitutaki recovery plan

Friday 12 March 2010 | Published in Regional

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New Zealand has confirmed up to $1.2 million more in support towards the $9.46 million Aitutaki cyclone recovery plan.

The NZ government has yet to publicly announce its aid toward the recovery project, but in a letter from the acting New Zealand High Commissioner, Nicola Ngawati, to minister of finance and recovery coordinator Wilkie Rasmussen, some commitment has now been made.

Rasmussen announced last week that NZ had indicated it would support the recovery plan with $8-10 million in funding – mostly to cover the costs of rebuilding homes and basic infrastructure on the cyclone devastated island.

Rasmussen told CI News last week that because government only has about $2.7 million to allocate to the recovery plan, it is relying on NZ to cover most of the funding.

Yesterday he said he remained confident that NZ would confirm its total funding commitment soon and that it would be as much as indicated in talks with NZ officials, including foreign affairs minister Mur-ray McCully.

Apparently NZ hopes to re-allocate unspent funds from the NZAID/AusAID programme to support ‘aspects’ of the recovery and reconstruction plan.

Ngawati’s letter states that the funding can support the $705,000 repairs to public infrastructure which include water pumps and galleries ($368,000), repairs to the hospital ($293,768) and schools ($42,754). The Cook Islands Investment Corporation has been working with the NZHC office on the contracts for this work.

According to Ngawati’s letter, NZ is also going to pay for the $530,410 to be spent on disaster risk management activities which include the clean up of debris, training, improving evacuation shelters and early warning systems.

NZ has already responded to the Aitutaki disaster by providing a Hercules relief flight and $350,000 in relief funding. The Cook Islands Red Cross received $100,000 of this to provide emergency supplies, and the remainder was used to buy building material to repair schools and provide relief supplies and equipment.

Rasmussen said yesterday that he is considering a trip to Wellington to visit McCully to talk about the aid commitment to the recovery plan, but he believes NZ will not turn away from supporting the Pacific country it has its closest ties with and whose people are NZ citizens.