12 Feb 2010

Retaining residents big challenge for Aitutaki after cyclone destruction

5:36 am on 12 February 2010

A resort operator on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands says the biggest challenge in the wake of yesterday's destructive cyclone is ensuring residents do not leave.

Cyclone Pat, with winds of up to 200 kilometres an hour, damaged a large number of the houses on the island.

It also wrecked parts of the island's infrastructure, brought down many trees and stripped the foliage of those that remained standing.

Mike Henry of the Aretamanu Beach Hotel says there's a fear that people will choose to leave rather than undertake the costly repairs.

"What we are in danger of doing, of having, is people choosing to, rather than try and rebuild, they've got loans to pay, they are likely to leave our island and this is the biggest challenge facing us now - how do we keep people, how do we help them rebuild, how do we keep them back on the island of Aitutaki to help Aitutaki grow."