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Long wait

Sikeli Qounadovu On Koro Island
Monday, February 19, 2018

ABOUT 50 per cent of all homes damaged by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston on Koro Island are yet to be built or completed.

About 1600 out of more than 3000 people on the island are still living in tents and makeshift shelters.

A survey conducted by this newspaper and based on data collated from the village headmen, 969 houses from 14 villages were destroyed by the monster cyclone and nearly two years after government's Help for Homes initiative, 499 houses have been completely built while 470 have not been built or have not been completed.

Of these, 12 homeowners have not received materials from the hardware stores despite being promised that their housing materials would be shipped within a month's time from the date of purchase and about two years on, the wait for the materials continue.

The scheme was initiated by Government for Fijians whose homes were partially or completely damaged by Severe TC Winston.

The scheme is categorised as follows: $7000 for completely demolished homes; $3000 for serious roofing damage; and $1500 for partial roofing damage.

Recipients access these funds through pre-paid cards that are presented to selected hardware retail companies.

The village headmen stated that in most cases, homeowners have had to wait for their housing materials.

Nacamaki Village headman Salesitino Naqarase said some homeowners received tins of paint and nails and had to wait again for posts, timber and roofing irons to arrive.

Nabasovi Village headman Mikaele Matata said a family had to leave Koro because they had not received a single material.

Nakodu Village headman Alipate Tiko said he travelled several times to Suva following up on their housing materials and spent as much as $300 in one travel.

Villagers told the team from this newspaper that when they received their cards, the hardware stores received them with open arms.

They claimed some were even dropped off at the wharf with the assurance they would receive their housing materials within a month of purchase.

"It's like we have been robbed because the hardware trucks delivered to us signed invoices, but it is not the homeowner's signature without the housing materials.

"They promised to deliver but yet failed to deliver their promise," said Tavua Village headman Nemani Buliruarua while showing invoices.

When contacted, Vinod Patel marketing manager Palash Dass said he could not confirm whether they had delivered all housing supplies, however, he referred all queries to the Ministry of Economy.

"We are not in a position to comment right now and I have been advised by my managers not to speak to the media.

"Any queries will have to be forwarded to the Construction Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Economy," Mr Dass said.

RC Manubhai's operational manager, Oscar del Mel stated they have delivered all housing materials and complaints are to be directed to the District Office.

"It cannot be all the villages. We need to have all the proper information before we can answer.

"You have to tell them to come to the DO's office because the Ministry of Economy is handling the matter.

"The DO's office will inform the Ministry of Economy and as far as we know, we have completed all the delivery except for Nasau Village, but we will need the card details, the numbers and then we can look at all other complaints.

"Until now, we have not received anything from the Ministry of Economy nor have we received any complaints."

A total of 93 homes are yet to be built in Nasau Village and the owners are waiting for the Nasau/Suva community to provide extra funding, which was estimated at $30,000 per house.

Questions sent to the Minister for Economy and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum last Thursday via electronic mail (email) and a follow-up email also sent to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday regarding the scheme remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night. In the 2016-2017 National Budget $75.3m was uploaded into electronic cards and distributed and the budget made a further allocation of $20m towards the initiative.

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