26 Feb 2016

Pacific community leader says NZ aid effort missing the boat

5:19 pm on 26 February 2016

A Pacific community leader in Auckland is upset at what he calls 'a heartless approach' from the New Zealand government to the collection of aid for cyclone-hit Fiji.

Melino Maka is chair of the Tongan Advisory Council and is part of the Red Cross Pacific team.

Mr Maka said the large Pacific community in Auckland can't understand why they were not able to send private contributions of aid on the two naval vessels being sent to Fiji.

Melino Maka from Auckland's Tongan Advisory Council.

Melino Maka from Auckland's Tongan Advisory Council. Photo: Karen Mangnall

He said the community was able to load goods on HMNZS Canterbury when it travelled to Samoa and Tonga after the 2009 tsunami.

Mr Maka said resources and will are not a problem within the community but there is a missing link when it comes to the government.

"Given that there is a huge number of Pacific people here in Aotearoa and I think it is an appropriate way to engage our Pacific community here because even though those people in Fiji have lost their lives, we also feel it here. That's the Pacific approach to this."

Melino Maka said the community cannot organise private transport because many companies are not shipping to Fiji yet.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they appreciate communities in New Zealand want to support family and friends who have been affected by the devastating cyclone.

However it said the priority has to be supplying the aid requirements specifically sought by the Fiji Government and relief flights have all been full.

These have so far included supplies such as blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen kits, and water and sanitation hygiene kits.

Fiji Red Cross staff and volunteers get aid packages ready for distribution following Cyclone Winston

Fiji Red Cross staff and volunteers get aid packages ready for distribution. Photo: TWITTER / @FijiRedCross

The Ministry said the best thing to donate is money to an emergency appeal, not clothing, food or other goods.

The New Zealand Red Cross website states that it does not accept clothing, food or other goods, as they can clog up airports and ports and distract humanitarian workers from more important tasks.

It said it also works to ensure people receive goods that are equitable, quality and appropriate, and when they can they buy from local supplies which helps the local economy after a disaster.

It said cash moves fast, is more easily collected, transferred, distributed and accounted for.