12 Jan 2004

French Polynesia joins Niue aid effort

6:24 am on 12 January 2004

More aid is being sent to cyclone ravaged Niue.

The government of French Polynesia has sent a plane with two tons of basic food supplies and 100 kilogrammes of medicines.

The territory's vice-president, Edouard Fritch, has accompanied the special flight from Papeete.

But the aid mission is being challenged in court by a Tahiti resident, Rene Hoffer, who says to give foreign aid is not within the territory's competence and can only be done by the French government.

Last November, the legality of giving aid to Fiji was tested in a court in Papeete which referred the matter to the French council of state but Paris has not commented yet.

In Papeete, the French high commissioner, Michel Mathieu, says aid will be offered if Niuean officials request it.

And he says France will attend a meeting in Wellington today to discuss joint assistance with New Zealand and Australia.

The Fiji Red Cross meanwhile has sent a 600 kilogramme consignment of prepackaged emergency supplies to Niue.

And a week-long appeal has been launched in the Cook Islands to help Niue.

The Cyclone Heta Appeal for Niue was set up by government and community representatives and will culminate in a gala event.

Some accommodations have agreed to contribute a night's stay to be auctioned off in a telethon.