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ALOFI, Niue (Niue News, June 25) - Niue conservationists are appealing for donor support from the region, to research the full extent of damage to the environment following Cyclone Heta earlier this year.

Effects of the hurricane on fruit bats, birds, coconut crabs and the forests have not been properly investigated by skilled personnel, according to a government spokesperson.

"It’s due to finances and also the lack of personnel and technical know-how as to how to do the actual assessment," said the Niue director for the environment department and former director of agriculture, Sauni Tongatule, addressing donors at a Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation meeting in Fiji. "And also you can’t get into some of these areas to do proper assessments, he added.

He said the Niue government has more pressing priorities, such as housing and relocation of essential services such as the island’s hospital.

"We’re just hoping some people might commit to some financial assistance to enable us to lobby some of our NGO’s back home to do some of the work back home. I don’t think government is in a position to do some of this work," said Mr Tongatule.

June 29, 2004

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