March 14, 2016
It is imperative that all the people who have lost homes are provided help to rebuild their houses. This help should come in a coordinated national programme. Provision of appropriate shelter to all the people affected by cyclone Winston is the responsibility of the government.
This should be the priority of Government and all stakeholders. And we are ready to be part of a bipartisan approach together with the international community especially Australia and New Zealand to ensure all damaged and destroyed homes are rebuilt.
The assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand is highly commendable and confirms the permanency of close friendship between them and Fiji. They have left no stones unturned in undertaking massive rehabilitation and relief work. Their efforts are exemplary. The people of Fiji are grateful to them.
We know Cabinet Ministers are distributing tarpaulins donated by our neighbours as part of efforts to provide temporary shelter. However all efforts must be directed towards rebuilding our homes and schools to ensure they are able to withstand category 5 cyclones.
Many of the homes destroyed in the islands, Taveuni, Savusavu and in the Western Division are homes of people who were already struggling to meet daily needs. Many of their homes were already substandard and it is not surprising that majority of them have been destroyed. Together with their homes, most of these families have lost all of the household possessions much of it accumulated over a long period of time.
While the devastation is extensive and painful to families affected by it, this is also an opportunity for Fiji to undertake an extensive home building project to provide homes built to deal with the onslaught of destructive cyclones in the future.
Bipartisanship at parliamentary level
We call upon the government to immediately setup a joint parliamentary task force to oversee such a project. To do this government should relook at its 2016 budget to source funds from different ministries and prioritize to home building in the devastated areas. In addition, government should work with our international partners and donors to source funds to build appropriate and cyclone proof homes.
Once again in this regard Government should provide a cash grant of $5000 to families who wish to rebuild their own homes. This would be direct assistance from the State apart from the home owners assisting themselves or through their families with the FNPF $5000 quick housing assistance.
As we have said before this is an opportunity for all the political parties in parliament to unite with a purpose to rebuild the lives of so many families affected by the cyclone. The NFP therefore offers its hand to be part of an appropriate mechanism to help rebuild peoples home. Rebuilding homes should become a major priority and therefore an appointment of a joint parliamentary committee and task force to oversee the rebuilding of homes would be the right thing to do.
We call upon the government to support the appointment of a number of joint committees of parliament to oversee the recovery programme.
These committees could include joint committee on rebuilding homes, joint committee on the sugar industry, joint committee on rebuilding schools and a joint committee to rebuild the agriculture sector in the devastated areas.
Revise National Building Code
The National Building Code needs to be revised so that thousands of destroyed and damaged homes as well as schools are in conformity to standards and guidelines to be able to withstand the force of a maximum of category 5 cyclone. Currently our buildings are designed and constructed to be able to withstand winds of up to a maximum force of a category 3 cyclone.
We urge Government to seek building and architectural expertise from New Zealand and Australia as well as our local engineers and architects to formulate plans and designs that are stronger and become the standard for all future constructions. That is why it is important that the National Building Code is revised.