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NZ urges wise planning in tsunami relief effort

NZ urges wise planning in tsunami relief effort

International aid for fishing communities hit by the tsunami must be well-planned to avoid repeating past fisheries problems and creating new ones, says Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope was in Rome for a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ministerial meeting on fisheries, which included discussion on disaster relief for fishing communities devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami.

“The world has responded generously to this disaster and there is now a real need to ensure that the enormous international relief contributions are organised effectively,” Mr Benson-Pope said.

“New Zealand believes the FAO is the appropriate organisation to do this. We support the FAO’s efforts to exercise leadership in the planning and coordination of relief projects.”

Mr Benson-Pope said he endorsed the FAO’s recent warning that relief efforts should not result in a harmful build-up of excessive fishing capacity in the countries hit by the tsunami.

“In our enthusiasm to help, we should not create the conditions for overfishing and resource depletion, particularly where these problems were already occurring.”

Mr Benson-Pope said reconstruction efforts should also heed future risks: “It seems clear that an early warning system for tsunamis would help avoid a recurrence of at least some of the horrific costs we see from the latest event.

“Such a system could reduce the risks to coastal communities from similar natural hazards, such as floods and tropical storms. We should not forget that such events are expected to become more frequent and severe as a result of global climate change, which also threatens a general rise in sea levels.”

Mr Benson-Pope said New Zealand, which has contributed almost $70 million of government funding to tsunami relief, would continue to play its part.

“We will not forget the need for sustained relief and development assistance, as the communities affected by this terrible event set out to rebuild their lives.”

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