Village Councils speak out at the national consultation on climate mobility

Damage caused to homes on the west coast by Cat 5 Cyclone Heta in 2004

The government needs to improve its support of relocation actions for the villages on the west coast of the island was one of the key messages heard at the national consultations on climate mobility held over the past two days. 

Village council representatives joined NGOs and government departments to discuss the human security implications of climate change and mobility. 

The government’s 2008 Coastal development policy was discussed with particular focus on the development restrictions along the Red Zone.

Director of Utilities Clinton Chapman explained that the Red Zone is the lower terrace on the west coast of the island that suffered the most impact from category 5 Cyclone Heta in 2004.

In the hope of enticing people to relocate to the upper terraces, the coastal policy with regards to the Red Zone sets conditions that will free the government from any liability should another major cyclone destroy new buildings on the lower terrace.  

Chairperson of the Alofi South VC Robin Hekau said that the government needs to step up its assistance in relocating families away from the coastline to the higher terraces inland.

Mr. Hekau said that families cannot afford to relocate because of the expensive utility costs to run power and water to the higher terrace.

Director of Utilities Clinton Chapman agrees that there are gaps in this coastal policy because people and businesses continue to be built on the lower terrace.

But some people did relocate after Cyclone Heta such as the new settlement at Fou in Alofi North where three families have rebuilt and relocated there, away from the coast.

Charlie Tohovaka from Makefu said that the elderly like him will remain on the lower terrace because it is too late for them to rebuild their homes elsewhere.

But he is encouraging his children and grandchildren to move to the upper terrace when it is their turn to build their homes.

The two days of consultations are an opportunity for the stakeholders to discuss relevant national policies and initiatives relevant to climate mobility and identify what needs to be changed and examine the challenges and opportunities to improve the protection of people relocating because of climate change.

Also under consideration are the impacts on vulnerable groups of people such as people with disabilities and ethnic families who do not have rights to Niue land but are living as permanent residents in Niue.

The facilitator of the consultations Jamal Veidreyaki encouraged the village councils to advocate for their communities because there is generally a lack of advocacy to progress the relocation and climate mobility agenda.

Mrs. Veidreyaki is the Co-facilitator of the consultation with Niue National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) under the Program Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security (PCCMHS)

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