I experienced first-hand the real value of the ERKS in 2012 in Samoa as New Zealand High Commissioner and as a member of the Apia Rotary Club.
Cyclone Evan hit Samoa in December that year with surprising fury, deluging Apia with tsunami-like force as a level three cyclone. It caused fourteen deaths and extensive damage in both Apia and the southern coast of the main island Upolu. Our Rotary Club was out there delivering much needed Emergency Response Kits on the first day after the disaster. Fortunately, we were able to use kits that were already pre-positioned in Apia just for such an emergency. Families who had lost everything were extremely grateful. The ERKs were delivered in close collaboration with the National Disaster Management Office which coordinated the overall disaster response including the engagement of international partners (including the New Zealand Government), the local community and NGOs. The ERKs were and remain a key part of the Samoa Government’s strategy for disaster responses.
I was New Zealand High Commissioner in the Cook Islands in 2015 and 2016 and I supported the pre-positioning of over 600 ERKs in Rarotonga as both New Zealand government representative and local Rotary Club member. Fortunately, the Cook Islands missed any significant cyclone damage during that time. But the Cook Islands is well prepared thanks to Rotary and MFAT.
I was in Nuku’alofa as Acting New Zealand High Commissioner just before Cyclone Gita hit the main island of Tongatapu and the nearby island of ‘Eua. In anticipation of the cyclone, before I left, I made sure the local Rotary Club was ready to distribute hundreds of ERKs that had been prepositioned for just such disasters. It was the most powerful cyclone to hit Tonga since detailed records began with winds of over 230km. It damaged or destroyed almost 2,000 homes, caused the evacuation of over 4,500 people and left more than 80% of homes in Tonga without power. The local Rotary Club, working with a local NGO, subsequently delivered ERKs to badly affected families.