Fiji is now open for business

By Richard Moore

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The interior of the Kese church. Photo/Richard Moore
The interior of the Kese church. Photo/Richard Moore

Over the past two weeks I have seen some amazing things in Fiji, not least of which is the incredible resilience of people who have lost everything.

Walking through the half-destroyed village of Soso on Naviti Island, it was incredible the number of times I was greeted with "Bula" and then an offer of food.

And we in New Zealand and Australia must remember this is not a case of a one-off donation being enough. There is a long-term need for support.
Richard Moore

I turned the generosity down every time with the shake of my head, a wave of my hand, a smile and a "Vinaka". That is thank you.

The villagers were in desperate food straits and I would have felt awful to have made that worse. The rice, sugar, cans of fish and flour we brought in for them by boat would be their only sustenance for a few days.

Cyclone Winston and its terrible power had robbed them of their basic foodstuffs.

All around the islands trees of all types and sizes were broken, without greenery, or just felled as if by a giant hand.

Every breadfruit tree in the villages I visited had been destroyed, all the cassava plants ruined, coconut palms in tatters and banana palms good for little.

The people now only have a maximum of a few weeks of crops left - that is until they rot after the cyclone damage.

Read more: Richard Moore: Sad tokens of cyclone's power

Fiji is in real trouble and the country is desperate for emergency supplies. Unfortunately, the need will be there for at least another year, or until the traditional foods can be regrown.

And we in New Zealand and Australia must remember this is not a case of a one-off donation being enough. There is a long-term need for support.

Fijians need a hand-up, they are not the sort of people to want hand-outs.

Thankfully Anzac military forces are bringing in emergency relief supplies, as well as seeds and plants for the nation's outlying islands.

The people are also in need of shelter and, in the not-so-distant future, building supplies to rebuild their homes, buildings and churches.

On Naviti Island I also visited the villages of Kese and Muiira that had their churches badly damaged by the 300km/h winds.

They would usually be places of sanctuary but, fortunately, villagers sheltered elsewhere as the winds collapsed both buildings' roofs.

Anyone inside would have been badly hurt or killed.

One of the major reasons for the villages being so badly hit by Winston is the fact their homes were not cyclone-proof. To make them so requires money and the availability of quality building supplies at reasonable cost.

I have been told by several different people that since the disaster the cost of building materials have tripled in price. Nothing could be more contemptible than businesses profiteering in the wake of such a storm.

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The toll for Fiji is 43 people dead, more than 7000 homes destroyed and another 11,000 damaged.

Sending shipments of building materials would help solve this - and future - natural disasters.

I'm physically tired after almost two weeks of 15-hour days in very hot conditions and mentally exhausted after covering the results of Cyclone Winston and meeting people who have lost everything.

I do have good news though.

Fiji is open for business.

Would-be travellers can feel safe in the knowledge most resorts are either open, or are about to do so. The ones in the Yasawas are definitely ready to welcome you and, I have to say, those islands are my favourites in the parts of Fiji I have visited.

Blue waters, blue skies and every type of marine fun you can have.

It may take a little longer for the resorts to be able to offer leafy trees though.

It really is important to remember that you help Fijians by travelling there. They want you to come and that's one message they want me to give to you.

Tourists mean money and jobs for locals. And I have seen the efforts the resorts of Barefoot Manta and Barefoot Kuata have gone to to make sure the villages in their areas have enough food and help to see them through these difficult times.

They are family and, as neighbours in the Pacific, we too should help out as best we can to a lovely people hurt by nature's fury.

Remember donations can be made through AwesomeFiji.com.

-richard@richardmoore.com

Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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