Niue Emergency Response Team return from Hawkes Bay Mission

Photo credits: Robin Hekau

In the past few weeks, four local experts travelled to New Zealand as part of the Niue Emergency Response Team to assist and support the Hawkes Bay communities in their recovery period post-cyclone Gabrielle, and just last week they have returned back home. 

BCN News spoke with team lead Robin Hekau last Wednesday who shared how grateful the Pacific communities in the Hawkes Bay region were for their help and support in their recovery period. 

Niue’s Emergency Response Team included team lead and NDMO director Robin Hekau, Alana Fiafia Rex of Oma Tafua, AnneMarie Aholima of PMCU and Hetututama Hetutu of the Avatele Village Council. 

BCN News spoke with team lead Robin Hekau 

“We went down to assist more for the Pacific people, doing their proposals and preparations for them. We didn’t really know much until we went down there and we were attached with two offices which are the Civil Defence office and also the Pacific Health Services Te Whatu Ora.”

Robin told BCN News that the most vulnerable people are the Pacific communities, especially those who are employed under the regional employment scheme. 

“These are the fruit pickers that came into New Zealand from the other islands. There’s 850 of them in that area so they are from the Solomons, Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa. These were the most vulnerable Pacific people there because there was nobody looking after them because even their employers were highly affected as well by the cyclone.”

Robin says there was evident confusion of the regional councils in how to respond and recover from the impacts of a natural disaster as severe as the one they experienced earlier this year. 

“They had no plans in place for what to do in a time of a cyclone or a time of any disasters. So it’s pretty much new to this whole area and especially also for the civil defence office.”

Robin says that the last time the region experienced a severe natural disaster was in 1939. 

“They were totally destroyed because of the river and it’s just crazy because of the bigger area and when the river got flooded they weren’t prepared for all that. It was a big destruction and people were disorientated, people didn’t know where to go and get help from.”

“We ended up talking to the communities, different leaders, people and then we made our report to government agencies as well and that’s the same thing. We take what the government agencies were talking about and our meetings for the Pacific people.”

Robin told BCN News, that he and the team were grateful to assist the Hawkes Bay communities especially the Pacific communities in their recovery period.

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