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Wednesday 3 March 2010 | Published in Regional


Prime minister Jim Marurai says he is ‘comfortable’ with the process government is undertaking for an Aitutaki recovery plan, despite the criticism that it is taking longer than expected.

It has been three weeks since the devastation of Cyclone Pat and Marurai’s office says he understands that putting assessments together has taken time but these have now been presented for consideration, and feedback from various stakeholders. The deadline for the feedback is today.

“What is important is that the recovery plan has the integrity of detailed and accurate information otherwise the end policy results would be flawed. Once the draft report is circulated by tomorrow afternoon, the PM expects cabinet to be in a more solid position from which to make sound decisions about the rehabilitation of Aitutaki, particularly housing priorities,” said a statement from Marurai’s office in response to CI News questions.

Yesterday health minister Apii Piho confirmed that the recovery plan won’t go to cabinet until tomorrow for endorsement.

Piho says he is confident that government will deliver a recovery plan that is well thought out and that will attract the NZ Aid funds needed to invest in the reconstruction of homes in Aitutaki. The plan was initially proposed for announcement last week.

Piho believes four weeks is not long to wait for the plan to be put into action. He says government hopes to begin shipping building materials to Aitutaki for reconstruction to start within a month’s time.

Yesterday CI News asked Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop to comment on the draft plan he has already seen.

“Policy is one thing, money is another. The policy is good but people are just saying ‘tell us where the help is coming from and when it is coming’,” he says.

Bishop says the draft plan he received included the possibility of building new homes worth about $35,000 each for those in Aitutaki that have been left homeless.

“People won’t leave because of food, energy and water, but they will because of housing and mortgage problems.”

While Bishop says he is hoping the reconstruction will happen sooner rather than later, he has been encouraged by what he has seen from government’s draft plan so far.

Minister responsible for the recovery plan, Wilkie Rasmussen, was due back in Rarotonga last night on a flight from Penrhyn – a day earlier than planned – but the plan is still due to spend another day being prepared for cabinet.

Rasmussen’s CEO Vaine Teokotai, also a member of the committee working on the plan, said it would have gone to cabinet on Tuesday but it was still being completed. He said there was no way government could move faster on the plan as the process they are following is the ‘way the system works’.

He said the committee was aiming to have the plan finalised by the end of the day yesterday with a draft copy going out to key officials overnight.