Almost a week after Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle swept through Hawke’s Bay, Solomon Islanders working there under New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme have already returned to work, with some back in the orchards, while others are assisting with the clean-up and recovery efforts.
The Category 3 tropical Cyclone Gabrielle hit parts of New Zealand’s upper North Island between the 12th and the 14th of February. Heavy rains, gale-force winds and severe flooding led to authorities issuing a state of emergency that still remains for parts of the region.
In Hawke’s Bay, where the majority of the Solomon Islands RSE workers in New Zealand are employed, many had to evacuate as floodwaters submerged houses, businesses, and farmland in metres of water, and hundreds of hectares of orchards and crops were swept away.
Representing the Solomon Islands High Commission to New Zealand, Second Secretary June Rofeta Maenu’u recently met with around 298 workers across 7 companies in Hawkes Bay: Pick Hawkes Bay, Bayley Produce, Douglas Fruit, Gourmet Blueberries, Focus Contracting, Bostock and T&G. Sharing their experiences with the High Commission, most of the RSE workers reported being safe during the disaster.
However, a group of men with Douglas Fruit and T&G companies were some of the many who had to be rescued and evacuated from encroaching waters. The T&G men described how they had to climb to the roof of their accommodation where they awaited rescue, before being moved to an evacuation centre.
The High Commission ascertained that no Solomon Island workers sustained serious injuries, and that all local workers in the Hawkes Bay area are accounted for.
In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, New Zealand Government Agencies responded region-wide with emergency services, rescue, land searches and evacuation efforts. Pasifika churches, communities and medical organizations were instrumental in supporting RSE worker evacuation, providing shelter, food and access to essential clinical care. Meanwhile, Solomon Islands communities across New Zealand showed an outpouring of support by sending donated goods to workers in the affected areas.
The Solomon Islands High Commission in New Zealand conveyed its deepest sympathies following the loss and destruction caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, and thanked the various government agencies, churches, communities, and organizations for ensuring the safety of RSE workers.
—MFAET PRESS RELEASE