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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 14) – The Cook Islands government needs at least another NZ$1.2 million [US$748,000] to enable [the atoll of] Pukapuka to fully recover from cyclone damage.

This was revealed in parliament yesterday by the island's member of parliament Tiaki Wuatai when asked for an update on the recovery and building work being carried out on Pukapuka 16 months since it was lashed by cyclones.

[PIR editor’s note: Pukapuka atoll is located in the Northern Cook Islands, about 715 miles north of Rarotonga, the main island in the Cook Islands. ]

He said that the status of houses damaged by the cyclones was that they were still as they were after the cyclone.

Wuatai told parliament that after the cyclones a team flew to the island to make an assessment and this was during the Cook Islands Party government. He inisisted on referring to the party in government at that time because he was questioned by the member of parliament for Ruaau, Vaine Wichman, who is a CIP.

Sadly, Wuatai said, when he went to the outer islands ministry (OMIA), he was told that they had no record of any report prepared on Pukapuka.

"It is true that I did visit the office of OMIA and I asked them where the first report was and they said there was no report. And so the work just dragged on from the last cyclone until the time government decided to send a new team to Pukapuka."

He admitted, however, that after the first assessment (straight after the winds), urgent supplies were sent to the islands (Pukapuka and Nassau)

"By right you (Wichman) should pose this question to the OMIA minister. You all know that this problem occurred during the time you (CIP) were in government. After cyclone Percy, the first team arrived to asses the cyclone. Their report was submitted to the government here and urgent supplies were sent to the islands," Wuatai told parliament.

"After a couple of months the management and implementation of the programme for the restoration of houses was not going according to plan in Pukapuka and Nassau. The status of some homes and houses damaged by cyclone was still as after the cyclone-nothing done."

Wuatai said that a new team was sent by the current government to review the work and they had compiled and submitted their report to government and government is in the process of implementing those reports.

"Now the new report is awaiting implementation phase it has been estimated to cost $1.2m - $1.5m to fully recover the island of Pukapuka."

July 21, 2006

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