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City supports Tsunami recovery

February 8, 2005

City supports Tsunami recovery

North Shore City is investigating how it can provide technical assistance to a Sri Lankan aid project in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami disaster.

The council decided today to approve up to $25,000 worth of staff technical assistance and has set up a working party to identify a suitable village or housing project in Sri Lanka in partnership with a recognised aid agency. The working party will investigate how the council and the North Shore community can most effectively assist the communities affected by the tsunami disaster in the medium to long term.

The council has 19 Sri Lankan staff, some of whom were on holiday in the country when the tsunami hit. Many have friends and extended family affected by the disaster.

Mayor George Wood says the council's special knowledge of Sri Lanka through its staff links and the unprecedented scale and worldwide effects of the tsunami disaster has prompted the action.

"We have a social responsibility to help if we can. And I think there is a lot our city can learn from assisting with this recovery operation. As a coastal city we are vulnerable to this kind of disaster too. There will be benefits for North Shore if our staff can get some experience of this kind of work," he says.

Mayor Wood says the city gained a lot of knowledge when it sent its civil defence chief David Keay to Taiwan in 1999 after the major earthquake there. The publicity before and after his visit also helped raise community awareness of the need to be more prepared for coping in a disaster situation. Council staff also recently assisted in the Manawatu flood recovery programme.

"This tsunami assistance could not only help Sri Lanka but also improve our own region and city's civil defence readiness. Other Auckland councils may also wish to get involved." George Wood says the council will be concentrating on assisting with a longer term housing or infrastructure project in Sri Lanka.

"The immediate relief programme is well in-hand through international aid agencies. But when this story no longer makes the headlines, Sri Lanka will still need a lot of assistance in the area of rebuilding housing, boat-building and reinstating roading and water infrastructure. Our staff and local community have expertise in these areas and we want the working party to identify a suitable project in partnership with a reputable local or international aid agency.

"It could be something like an 'adopt a village' type project or assistance with the housing construction project that the United Sir Lanka Association of New Zealand is sponsoring through Sarvodaya, a non-governmental aid organisation in Sri Lanka," says Mayor Wood. The council's tsunami recovery working party will report back to the council by April on its recommendations for moving forward on a project.


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