A joint New Zealand and United States operation is underway to provide emergency water supplies to drought-stricken Tokelau, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully announced today.
“A severe La Nina weather pattern is operating in the Pacific region resulting in very low rainfall for many areas,” said Mr MrCully.
“Tokelau is entirely reliant on rainwater collection and is therefore severely impacted when drought conditions occur – current information suggests there’s less than a week’s supply,” he said.
A RNZAF Hercules will leave Ohakea early tomorrow carrying supplies and personnel to Pago Pago, American Samoa. The supplies being flown-up include 12 large, but empty, military water storage containers.
In Pago Pago the New Zealand team will rendezvous with the US Coastguard cutter WALNUT. It has an on-board water desalination plant which has filled its water tanks providing approximately 136,000 litres of water.
The Coastguard vessel will travel to Tokelau’s three main atolls. New Zealand estimates that this, plus current stocks, will be a sufficient supply in the short term.
“The situation in Tokelau is very serious and this immediate action is required to ensure the safe supply of drinking water for the 1500 residents – all of whom are New Zealand citizens,” said Mr McCully.
“We thank our American friends for their willingness to assist and the speed at which the WALNUT is able to be deployed. This operation demonstrates the importance of NZ and US cooperation in the Pacific region,” said Murray McCully.
New Zealand is also continuing to respond to the ongoing water shortage emergency in Tuvalu.
“Repairs are underway to the main desalination plant on Funafuti, and a desalination plant and Red Cross personnel arrived on the worst affected island of Nukulaelae this morning,” said Mr McCully
“New Zealand continues to monitor the Pacific drought situation closely and stands ready to provide further assistance if required,” he said.