Ara staff support cyclone hit Fiji

News News & events

29 Apr 2016

Mick John Fiji

John and Mick in the destroyed village of Nataleira

Only a few buildings were left standing in Nataleira, a coastal village in Fiji, after it was hit by Cyclone Winston in February this year. Six people lost their lives and the entire village was left in ruins.

Ara Carpentry tutors Mick Cooke and John Kerrigan flew to Fiji in April for the Pacific Trades for Canterbury Pilot Project, to bring Pacific Island tradespeople to Canterbury to help with the rebuild. Mick and John also wanted to help out the destroyed region and saw the opportunity to bring CPIT branded clothing. The clothing was no longer needed after the institute relaunched in March as Ara Institute of Canterbury.

 "We travelled for an hour and a half to the very remote coastal village Nataleira. We passed many villages on the way that had been affected by cyclone Winston. It was sad to see so many people's lives turned upside down as we drove by."

destroyed church Fiji

This is what is left of the church, after Cyclone Winston hit the village.

Winston hit the Pacific Islands at the end of February. Winston was a category 5 cyclone and caused a lot of devastation when it hit land. 42 people died during the worst storm recorded in the southern hemisphere.

 "When we arrived we were first taken around the village to see the destruction. We were then taken to the village hall where we had an official greeting and welcome with the chief and the other villagers. We then presented the clothing." 

Although the region was hit hard by the cyclone, people were very welcoming, said Mick.

"The whole experience was very heart wrenching; something that John and I will always remember. The people of Nataleira are very proud people and ask for nothing, they are just getting on and are trying to rebuild their community. The land is still very wet and they have had no power since the cyclone hit. It will be a long road to recovery."

Mick and John explained to the chief that they were in Fiji to find Pacific tradespeople for the Canterbury rebuild and that they would like to offer a small gift to the village as a way of helping out.

Fiji family clothes

The suitcase is taken to one of the elders, who will distribute the clothes.

The aim of the Pacific Islands for the Pacific Trades for Canterbury Pilot Project is to bring Pacific Island trades people to Canterbury to help with the rebuild. It gives Pacific Islanders the opportunity to earn good wages, and gain additional experience and qualifications which can then be taken back to benefit their home countries. Tonga, Fiji and Samoa are the three countries currently involved in the project.

John and Mick are now investigating if there is anything further they can do to help this village to rebuild.

Read more about the Pacific Island Project on