Wellington: New Zealand has established a taskforce to ensure a speedy recovery and reconstruction of the areas affected by Cyclone Gabrielle and January floods.
The Terms of Reference for the Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery Taskforce have been approved by the cabinet, with the primary purpose to align locally led recovery plans with the work of government agencies and the private sector, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Our response will ensure affected communities are at the center of the decision making and that local voices are fed back to the government through the taskforce,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Wednesday.
The taskforce will also oversee specialist groups of experts who will advise the government on what is required for the recovery and how to improve resilience to climate change and severe weather in the future, Robertson said.
The taskforce membership includes representatives from business, local government, communities and unions.
There are also expert sub-groups for insurance and banking, utilities and telecommunications, as well as infrastructure, construction and roading.
The taskforce, which covers all regions affected by the January and February floods and cyclone, will advise ministers on the prioritization and sequencing of needs for each region and provide assurance that those needs are being met, Robertson said.
“Its initial focus will be on the immediate recovery but it will also lead on planning for future resilience, which will become its greater focus over time,” he said, adding climate resilience will be a core objective of the recovery.
“This is the biggest natural disaster seen (in New Zealand) this century with a considerable scale of damage,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said of Cyclone Gabrielle which killed 11 people in the North Island.
New Zealand’s resilience is being tested like never before, Hipkins said last month after the disaster.
“Lives have been turned upside down … Many people have seen their homes and all of their possessions completely destroyed. Countless others have been displaced,” he said.
About 10,000 people were displaced by the natural disaster, the level of which New Zealand has not seen since the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011, the authorities said.
New Zealand declared a state of emergency on February 13, the third time in the country’s history, and reported widespread power outages, flight cancellations and school closures in the North Island.