Relief fund for pickers' families

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Ilaisa Doraisavu, from Fiji, RSE worker on an RJ Flowers Ltd orchard at Twyford Hastings. PHOTO/PAUL TAYLOR
Ilaisa Doraisavu, from Fiji, RSE worker on an RJ Flowers Ltd orchard at Twyford Hastings. PHOTO/PAUL TAYLOR

Hawke's Bay's horticulture industry is building an emergency relief fund to help their Fijian RSE workers.

And it's these locals who were helping them cope with the devastation of losing homes and food sources, the Fijians said.

Team leader of a 12-strong team of Fijian RSE workers at RJ Flowers in Twyford, Ilaisa Doraisavu, said Kiwis were helping him and his teammates through the heartbreak of devastation back home.

The team all come from Fiji's Wayalailai Island, which has been struck by a severe cyclone twice in four years.

"Our big New Zealand family has been amazing, everyone is so kind and generous wanting to help and look after us and support our families, our children.

"We are very grateful to be working in New Zealand, we love our jobs, the orchard work and harvesting the apples. I want to say on behalf of my team, a big big thank you to everyone wanting to help our families who need food and shelter."

RJ Flowers financial manager Wendy Evans said over the past few weeks she has been incredibly inspired by how resilient and positive the team from Fiji has been, despite losing their homes and food crops.

"The first few days were very worrying, but once we knew everyone's families were safe all our spirits picked up and we're now focusing on what we can do to help," she said.

Just days after Cyclone Winston hit Aporosa Tui told Hawke's Bay Today his heart wanted to be back home as his house, which was home to his elderly mother, brother, wife and young daughter, was destroyed.

Jerf van Beek, national seasonal labour co-ordinator of Horticulture New Zealand, said there are about 80 RSE Fijian workers including the 12 who come from Wayalailai Island.

"Cyclone Evan hit this island in 2012 but the rest of Fiji was hardly damaged that time. But this time round, some islands have been hit harder than Wayalailai so there are concerns that they might miss out."

Mr van Beek said the need was two-fold - for food and shelter. It will take a full cycle to get cassava, their main root, crop back into sustainable production.

"We are planning a long-term relief programme with food and then building during the month of June.

Two New Zealanders will visit Fiji next week to take stock, and develop a building and food plan.

A Facebook page has been set up and a bank account will be opened on Monday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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