Habitat Helping the Pacific

Claire Szabo, CEO of Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, describes the housing charity’s works across the country and in the Pacific. In Auckland, Habitat has assisted 100 families into home-ownership. Half of those families are Pasifika. She says work with Pacific families in NZ and in the Pacific is made possible by the dedication of people like Tu’u’u Maeata’anoa Luamanu.

 

 

I will never forget the villagers who, standing on a beach on the east coast of Viti Levu, told me how they had survived Cyclone Winston two months earlier.

 

While the beach was calm the day we stood there, during Winston it had been inhospitable, with violent storm surges and 320km/h winds threatening the village.

 

Taking each other’s hands for safety, the village formed a human chain, carrying babies, small children and what belongings they could to the relative safety of an evacuation centre. Witnessing the resilience of communities unjustly ravaged by the effects of global climate change was awe-inspiring.

 

While many lost their homes and possessions in the storm, every person I met was resolutely focused on rebuilding for their futures. In the sadness of disasters, there is also an opportunity – to address the crisis of inadequate housing in the Pacific by building resilient homes that will withstand the storms.

 

At Habitat for Humanity, we’re driven by our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. We’ve had the privilege of working on major partnerships with communities in the Pacific ever since the 2009 tsunami in Samoa, when 600 Habitat volunteers from New Zealand flew to Samoa to build nearly 100 fale alongside families affected by the tsunami. Since then, we’ve worked alongside communities in the aftermath of major cyclones in Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.

 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily take a natural disaster for there to be a housing crisis. In Auckland, Habitat has assisted 100 families into home-ownership.

 

Half of those families are Pasifika.

 

This is especially important considering that Pacific families have a lower home ownership rate (18.5%) than other groups (e.g. Māori: 28.2% and European households: 58.6%).

 

Habitat’s work here in New Zealand and across the Pacific is made possible by the dedication of people like Tu’u’u Maeata’anoa Luamanu.

 

Lua is of Samoan heritage, with strong ties to Fiji and Tonga. Lua is on the Board of Habitat for Humanity Auckland, as well as working as a Manager of Habitat’s International Projects.

 

In 2013, Lua was instrumental in the project management of 240 home-builds for families in the wake of Cyclone Evan in Samoa.

 

More recently, Lua has been working to complete our 3-year project in Samoa, which has been in partnership with the New Zealand and Samoan Governments.

 

During the project, Lua has overseen and supported the building and retrofitting of 286 cyclone-resilient homes, as well as influencing Samoan Government housing policy. Just last year, he project-managed the very first Habitat homes built in Tonga.

 

This is the result of a memorandum of understanding between the Tongan government and Habitat New Zealand, opening the door for future work in Tonga.

 

Lua’s dedication to the Pacific communities he serves saw him travel to Tonga four times, Samoa five times and to Fiji once in the past year, alongside his work in Auckland.

 

Looking ahead, Lua is spearheading a new disaster-resilience project in Fiji, working alongside 40 communities there.

 

The project will emphasise the importance of combining disaster prevention expertise with local knowledge.

 

Lua’s cultural know-how is one of the reasons Habitat’s projects in the Pacific have been as successful as they have.

 

The work Lua oversees in the Pacific is made possible by people coming together.

 

From families in need of decent housing, to local carpenters and supporters and donors here in New Zealand.

 

For more information go to www.habitat.org.nz

 

 

04/07/18