Cyclones a test for Pacific RSE workers
Pacific Islanders working in New Zealand's horticulture or viticulture industries under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme face a test of character when cyclones ravage their homeland while they are absent.
WAQA NAULIVOU: That Saturday, Sunday, was some of the tough days for us, being right in the house, in the room, thinking about our families. There was no connection, I mean network, back home in the island. And that was keeping the boys here confused, trying to know what was happening back home. But lucky four days later we knew all our families are well, we are happy about. It doesn't matter about all our belongings - because we can have it again. But life, you can't get it back.
Waqa says their ability to help their cyclone-hit communities back in Fiji is limited.
WAQA NAULIVOU: We just arrived, so it might be better if we had been here for four or five months, so we could send some money.
These are the dilemmas of a Pacific Islander on a work contract, far from home. On a vineyard several kilometres away, I meet Ananias William from Santo in Vanuatu's north. His first seasonal contract in New Zealand was last year, when Cyclone Pam devastated his country.
ANANIAS WILLIAM: When the cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, we were worried about our families - kids, wives and parents. So we had to call back and ask. So we all came together, stayed together, and discussed how we were going to, if one of our friends got hit by the cyclone so we have to help them.
Being unable to provide immediate help to those back home is something the islanders must grapple with, according to Anthony Rarere, the general manager of Pick Hawke's Bay, which employs hundreds of Pacific workers.
ANTHONY RARERE: Different people cope in different ways. Last year, with the Vanuatu cyclone, we had a group of guys, about six guys, who were just determined to go home. They wanted to go home straight away. They couldn't, because there was no flights going in or out. So there was about six or seven guys. You got 100 odd realising there wasn't really much you could do if you did go home. So it really depends on individuals really. But a group of boys I had last year were a mess, they couldn't go to work, they just stayed together in a hall here and prayed.
It's already a wrench for many Pacific workers to leave their families and live in a foreign culture for months at a time.
When cyclones hit back home, the workers rally to support each other. They say they try to stay focused on getting through. In the long-term, earning money to help rebuild their communities is often the best they can do.
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