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ALOFI, Niue (Niue News, Feb. 11) - A New Zealand couple from Timaru, Ron and Dianne Paulin, signed up for two years Volunteer Service Abroad on Niue are assisting with the island's big clean up after Cyclone Heta.

Ron works at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, while Dianne is teaching at the Niue High School at Paliati.

The Paulin's arrived on Niue to start their volunteer work three days before Heta struck.

Since Heta, there has been plenty for Ron and Dianne to do.

Dianne has been working at the high school, preparing for the delayed start to the school year. And while that includes the usual teacher's preparation, with the caretaker busy in the grounds, teachers have been told they're responsible for cleaning up their own rooms.

She's been trying to track down year 13 textbooks. They've apparently been ordered, but it's not clear whether they've arrived yet. Some people think they did, but they're not sure where they are, others are sure they haven't yet arrived. It's proving frustrating.

"Whether that's Pacific, or cyclone-ravaged Pacific, I can't tell you," Dianne said.

Ron has been helping with the cleanup, and that's involved asbestos removal - donning a polythene suit, breathing apparatus and gloves - not the ideal attire in the tropics.

"It's a funny thing (asbestos)," he said. "It just looks so innocuous, just this stuff lying all over the place. This last week we've been doing clean-ups and we're always coming across a bit of asbestos - and if it's 11 a.m. and it's stinking hot . . ."

Newly arrived, Ron was sent out to assess damage to departmental buildings. He didn't think he was the right person for the job, but then wondered whether there was anyone else in the shell-shocked community able to deal with the job.

The cleanup has brought some reminders of how quickly people's lives have changed - that in a matter of hours, people have lost their home and nearly everything in it.

He is aware that people are leaving Niue.

At church recently there was talk of those who were taking children to relatives in New Zealand while their homes were rebuilt, and there was talk of others who might not come back at all.

The cleanups finished about a week ago, and Ron has to report to the office of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to start the job he was sent to Niue to do.

"I've got to find out what my normal duties are, and whether I'll have a desk, a phone, or access to a computer."

February 13, 2004

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