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Response to Cyclone Gita

As Green Party co-leader I extend my sympathies and support to the people of Tonga after the massive devastation of Cyclone Gita.

The Green Party welcomes the Government’s quick initial response to provide $750,000 in relief aid to help in the clean-up and recovery.

The images of destruction are truly heart-breaking after what’s been described as the kingdom’s worst cyclone in 60 years.

It is almost impossible to comprehend what it was like to be caught in such a ferocious storm with Gita carrying winds up to nearly 280 kilometres an hour.

It is an absolute credit to the authorities and emergency teams in Tonga, as well as the people themselves, that they saw the danger coming and prepared as best they could to protect lives.

Still, many who went through the last 24 hours in Nuku’alofa and surrounding areas, say they’ve never experienced the kind of force that confronted them last night.

Once again, our hearts go out to the people of Tonga, and also to their families and friends here in New Zealand who’ve been watching and worrying from so far away.

Rest assured, the Green members of this coalition Government will provide their support to ensure our friends and neighbours in Tonga have the help they are going to need.

As Minister for Climate Change in a Government that has clearly stated its commitment to meeting the challenges of climate change, can I say that the tragic destruction we have witnessed in Tonga, and the extensive flooding that Gita left in Samoa just a few days earlier, only strengthens our resolve to do what New Zealand can to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which are contributing to these types of severe weather events.

We have a responsibility to our whanau in the Pacific, who live in such vulnerable environments, as Cyclone Gita has once again demonstrated, we have a responsibility to show leadership on climate change and to show the determination and action that other countries can follow.

But the immediate challenge that lays strewn across the Tongan capital and outlying areas is the clean-up, recovery and rebuild.

As the Foreign Minister has stated in his declaration of the immediate, initial three quarters of a million dollars in aid funding, the force of Cyclone Gita will mean a lengthy clean-up and thoughts are with the Tongan Government and its people.