7 Jan 2004

First humanitarian flight from NZ to Niue to fly out tonight

6:44 pm on 7 January 2004

The duty minister, Paul Swain, says the flight will carry tarpaulins, blankets, water and water purification equipment.

Two disaster damage assessors will also be on the flight, as well as Niue's premier, Young Vivian, who is currently in Auckland following the death of his wife.

Mr Swain says tonight's flight will possibly be the first of many.

"It seems to us this has been the worst cyclone in living memory according to our Commissioner - widespread devastation and obviously and as reports trickle back I think we will be required to do more but just in the meantime it's important that we get off the ground, get away quickly as possible, with some of this urgent humanitarian assistance."

Meanwhile, Australia is to wait for an assessment of cyclone damage to Niue before deciding on what help to give.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Australian government was waiting on the assessment by the New Zealand team of experts on the extent of damage and help required.

The assessment is not expected to be known until tomorrow.