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Sunday 19 February 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Local, National


Raising support for New Zealand cyclone victims
Operation Tauturu Aotearoa instigator Norman George (seated) at yesterday’s first meeting to raise support for victims of Cyclone Gabrielle in the East coast and Hawkes Bay regions of New Zealand. Back row (from left), CINews publisher John Woods, Rose Benns, Reina Koteka, Nane George and Moan Heather, with Kopu Anguna (front left). Picture: GEORGE ELLIS/ 23021810

Former Speaker of Cook Islands Parliament Norman George has launched a public appeal to support victims and aid recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle damage in the Tairawhiti and Hawkes Bay regions of New Zealand.

Dubbed “Operation Tauturu Aotearoa” the appeal will include a national radiothon fundraiser in Rarotonga and all outer islands where Radio Cook Islands is broadcast and a callout for volunteers to go to New Zealand to help with recovery work in rebuilding important facilities and infrastructure.

Organiser Norman George, a senior lawyer and former policeman and politician, yesterday convened a lunch meeting to launch the appeal and plan a range of activities.

Cook Islands News publisher John Woods, a resident of cyclone-ravaged Gisborne in the Tairawhiti East Coast region, addressed the meeting to report on what he knows of cyclone damage and disruption caused by Cyclone Gabrielle in his absence while he has been in Rarotonga since the start of the month.

Woods recounted stories of lost lives and rescues in both Tairawhiti and Hawkes Bay where he has family. He was unable to communicate with his wife and sister for a week because all communication with the region was lost due to damage and dislocation.

In Rarotonga, George is appealing to the Government to release and enable public servants to go to New Zealand as volunteers helping with recovery.

“In the Cook Islands we are all used to cyclones and the terrible damage they can cause but this time it is New Zealand that needs our support and aid rather than the other way round,” George said.

“Everyone of us in the Cook Islands has been touched by aid and help from Aotearoa so now we should give back in the same spirit of compassion and benevolence.”

Prime Minister Mark Brown said he had received a report from the New Zealand High Commission in the Cook Islands on the extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“It’s quite devastating what has happened there, quite apart from the loss of lives they have experienced as well but significant damage to their agriculture sector as well as private homes and infrastructure.”

PM Brown did not indicate any immediate support.

George said that as a former policeman in New Zealand he was very familiar with national emergencies and disasters and was acting from compassion and empathy in his experience with search and rescue at times of civil defence exercises and initiatives.

In a flyer to provoke interest, George writes: “Deaths, landslides, flooding, road destruction, property damage – too many to mention. Our mission is to do what we can to help Aotearoa in their hour of need. We stood with them in two world wars. Now big Brother needs us again. Let’s respond with love, loyalty and commitment.”

George said he would spend the next four days personally campaigning and lobbying in the community to mobilise support for Operation Tauturu Aotearoa, asking interested people to attend another open meeting to promote the cause at The Islander Hotel at 12 noon on Tuesday, February 21.

Inquiries can be directed to 20241.