Bay Chronicle : March 26th 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015 YOUR PLACE, YOUR PAPER Island workers worry By JENNY LING TEN women from Vanuatu spent an anxious seven days fearing the worst after Cyclone Pam tore through their country. Communications were completely cut off and the women – who are picking fruit in Kerikeri in a bid to make their lives better back home – had no way of knowing if their loved ones or houses had survived the destruction. The group was relying on reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment relayed by their Kerifresh manager Richard Lenton. But there was a collective sigh of relief on Friday, a week after the cyclone hit, when Lenton told them Lamen Bay on Epi Island, where most of the women are from, had escaped relatively unscathed. There were no deaths or injuries and the houses appeared to be intact, Lenton says. ‘‘There were a lot of smiles and huge sighs of relief . . . a lot of very relieved people.’’ But there is still no news from more devastated areas where roads are blocked and communication is down. The United Nations says at least 17 people died and 65,000 have been Difficult time: A group ofwomenfrom Vanuatu, who are in Kerikeri picking fruit, wait anxiously for news from home with manager Richard Lenton. left homeless from the disaster, and is urging international communities to ramp up financial and humanitarian support. The cyclone’s impact has caused significant damage to the country’s food and water supplies as well as sanitation and health facilities. ‘‘If the houses have come through relatively well, the crops would have been badly worked over,’’ Lenton says. Family survives cyclone separation By JENNY LING A Kerikeri family has been reunited after Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu. Grant McLellan’s wife Suzie Merib and their two young children survived the category five cyclone that devastated the island earlier this month. McLellan was waiting anxiously at home for news of his family, who he picked up from the airport on Sunday after eight days of no communication. ‘‘I was relieved,’’ he says. ‘‘I knew they’d be safe but it was a case of not hearing from them for a week.’’ The family had travelled to Van- uatu in December for Christmas and to visit family and friends. McLellan returned to New Zealand a month later for work. Kerikeri’s Latest Showhome Come and see what we can build for you Far North Office: (09) 407 3441 0800 42 45 46 www.gjgardner.co.nz GJ-SH-76-FN0215-2MCL just four hours before the cyclone hit. ‘‘She was very worried about the wind getting stronger and stronger and the rain was coming in sideways,’’ McLellan says. Merib says her family sat out the cyclone at her brother’s house. ‘‘The water came inside and trees fell on the house. I tried to put the kids in a safe place and tried to stay awake the whole night. ‘‘We heard all the trees falling, Happy together: The family is happy to be back together after waiting out the cyclone in Vanuatu. Merib, who is from Vanuatu, and the children, Jaron, 4 and Gina, 2, were staying with her parents in Green Hill on Epi Island. Merib spoke with her husband coming down on each side of the house.’’ There was damage to the verandah and sides of the house, but it otherwise remained intact. But crops, including root crops and cocoa exported for chocolate, were ruined. Epi Island has a population of about 6000 and is in Shefa Province about 100km north of the capital Port Vila. The 10 women are seasonal fruit pickers who came to New Zealand under the Government’s Recognised Seasonal Employer [RSE] scheme, which allows the temporary entry of workers from overseas to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops in the horticulture and viticulture industries to meet labour shortages. Another 23 men were expected to arrive in Kerikeri on April 5 to work at Kerifresh but that is now uncertain, Lenton says. Leitare Orah, 35, is worried for her son Bruce 8, and husband David. ‘‘After the cyclone hit, we’ve heard nothing from Epi,’’ she says. ‘‘We just want everyone to be safe.’’ This is the sixth year Orah has travelled to New Zealand to pick fruit. She arrived in Kerikeri in Febru- ary and is staying until June. The Ministry of Business, Inno- vation and Employment says there are currently 19 Vanuatu nationals in Northland, working under the RSE scheme. Northland RSE employers typically recruit around 260 Vanuatu nationals over each year. Turners and Growers corporate communications manager Kylie Horomia says another 140-180 people from Vanuatu are working in the Hawkes Bay. ‘‘We’re looking at how to support them immediately and in the future, especially as they wait to hear from friends and family back home,’’ she says. VANUATU APPEAL The Kerikeri Baptist Church has set up a Givealittle page to help rebuild homes and buildings on Epi Island, Vanuatu. Pastor Brian Bullen says the church has been involved with people from the South Pacific islands for about five years. Members help the men and women who come to Kerikeri for seasonal fruit picking adjust to life in New Zealand by organising dinners, taking them shopping and sightseeing. They also work alongside several orchard employers and contractors in the area. ‘‘We work closely with the employers over here to help make their time here in Kerikeri as pleasant as possible,’’ Bullen says. ‘‘It is a big step for them to come here and leave their families behind for months and sometimes there are struggles and issues we can help with.’’ The church sent members to Epi every year from 2011 to 2014 to help with building projects. ‘‘As a group we looked at the devastation of Vanuatu with great sadness and continuing concern for our friends up there,’’ Bullen says. Bullen is organising a team to visit the area, once the situation becomes more clear. He would love to hear from anyone with building skills who wants to help. ❚ Visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/ helprebuildvanuatu# or phone Brian 021 532765 for more information. 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March 19th 2015