14 Feb 2018

MPs show support for Cyclone Gita hit countries

From The House, 6:55 pm on 14 February 2018

An outbreak of war, natural disasters, military coup, and tasers have all been cause for a ministerial statement in the House.

These statements are used to inform the House of a matter of significant public importance and today, the topic was Tropical Cyclone Gita.

Nuku'alofa after Cyclone Gita.

Nuku'alofa after Cyclone Gita. Photo: New Zealand High Commisson in Tonga

Tropical Cyclone Gita has brought destructive winds and flooding to the Pacific with Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa most affected so far.

Gusts of up to 270 km per hour ripped roofs from houses, churches and schools in Tonga, on Tuesday, while Samoa was affected by widespread flooding, water damage and power outages at the weekend.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand is here to help.  

“Whenever disaster strikes in the Pacific New Zealand is on hand to help,” she said.

“New Zealanders can feel that we have done all we can in our response to date.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern debating in The House

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave a Ministerial Statement on Government support for countries hit by Tropical Cyclone Gita.  Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ms Ardern said initial funding of $50,000 has been made available to Samoa to help damage assessments and flood-affected families.

She thanked the Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters for ensuring funding of  $750,000 was made available to Tonga “before the cyclone even reached landfall,” and said over ten tonnes of aid including 1,000 tarpaulins, 200 shelter toolkits, 500 family hygiene kits and 2,300 water containers have been delivered.

A ten-person team of experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence force, Ministry of Health, Fire and Emergency New Zealand has also been deployed to assist with coordinating support from New Zealand she said.

Gerry Brownlee

National MP Gerry Brownlee says New Zealand has a long-standing history of being on hand to help when the Pacific. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

National MP Gerry Brownlee said the Party’s thoughts are with all of those affected and offered suggestions for support.

“Disasters of this type are all too regular of an occurrence. I can only suggest that infrastructure resilience becomes a priority for New Zealand aid and development in the Pacific.”

"Equally, a more speedy process for biosecurity approvals on produce imports from the Islands may assist these economies in the recovery that their people must now begin," he said.

Green Party leader James Shaw said his party will back more support if it's needed and the cyclone is a reminder of New Zealand's responsibility to address climate change. 

No caption

Green Party Leader James Shaw says New Zealand has a responsibility to its whānau in the Pacific, who live in vulnerable environments. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

"The tragic destruction that we have witnessed in Tonga, the extensive flooding that Cyclone Gita left in Samoa, and the expected damage in the south of Fiji only strengthens our resolve to do what New Zealand can do to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the frequency and severity of these kinds of extreme weather events."

"We have a responsibility to our whānau in the Pacific, who live in such vulnerable environments, as Cyclone Gita has once again demonstrated, to show leadership on climate change, and to show the determination and action that other countries can follow," said Mr Shaw.

Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to affect other Pacific countries