Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cyclone Gabrielle leaves tragedy in its wake

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There is also an urgent need to address the issue of forestry slash which has caused a significant number of bridges to be destroyed.
  • By Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga

Last week was a harrowing experience for Kiwis as Cyclone Gabrielle left its mark on communities across the North Island.

At the time of writing, 11 people have lost their lives in the wake of this cyclone and my sincerest condolences go out to those they have left behind; I can only imagine what they are going through.

Thousands more, while no doubt grateful to be alive, have lost their livelihoods and, in some cases, their entire communities.

I want to thank the thousands of frontline workers who have been out there in response, from Fire and Emergency NZ, Police, St John, Civil Defence, and NZ Defence Force personnel, to those responsible for clearing our roads and re-establishing power and communications, to the many volunteers and charitable groups on the ground supporting those in need.

The rebuild and recovery from Gabrielle, and from the storm that preceded it, will take many months and there is much work to be done.

In the short-term, I strongly encourage anyone who can to donate to one of the charitable organisations on the frontline, like the Red Cross, Salvation Army or to a Mayoral Relief Fund.

Their work in the immediate aftermath of a disaster like this is critical, providing essential supplies and support to people in strife.

I visited Napier and Gisborne over the weekend with National Party Leader Christopher Luxon to see things first-hand and to get an idea of how we can help.

It is clear that the immediate priority must be finding those who are still unaccounted for, reconnecting essential services and providing support to those who have lost their homes.

In the longer term it is critical that we must strengthen our roading, electricity and communications infrastructure and improve its resilience to handle future natural disasters.

The Government must pass legislation to create emergency powers so that decisions regarding reinstating critical infrastructure can be made as quickly as possible.

There is also an urgent need to address the issue of forestry slash which has caused a significant number of bridges to be destroyed. No other business can let its waste simply be left for someone else to clean up and to cause such destruction and for critical roads to be destroyed.

Many areas and thousands of people were cut off for several days, with many still unable to reach their loved ones in affected areas to check on their welfare.

We can offer nothing but gratitude to those who have worked tirelessly to restore these essential services, but we must do more in future to try and prevent their loss in the first place.

Our communications network is particularly vital, with the ability to receive emergency updates and stay in touch with family and friends of utmost importance in times of crisis.

These are issues to be addressed in the coming months. For now, our focus must be placed squarely on helping those suffering the most to get back on their feet.

Through all the tragedy it has been encouraging to see that Kiwi spirit shine through in the way that we come together as a nation during difficult times.

Thank you again to all those involved in our response to Gabrielle. New Zealand will come out of this stronger – we always do.

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