Delays in sending New Zealand timber to Fiji means remote islanders are turning to collecting fallen wood in forests to build temporary homes. The category five Cyclone Winston struck in February, killing 44 people and destroying over 30,000 homes, schools and other infrastructure, to the order of $1.4 billion US dollars. Fiji relaxed its usually high import tariffs to allow foreign companies to respond to huge timber orders, but it won't get there before the next cyclone season. Alex Perrottet reports.
Whole villages were wiped out on Koro Island. Children died in the storm surge and 788 homes were blown away.
About 3,000 people were left without homes and most of them are still living in tents.
Elazar Duaibe works for Oxfam and said they have been able to build plenty of toilets, with the ratio of people to toilet now just 10 to one but people are worried about when they'll get new homes.
"Right now they're still living in tents, makeshift houses, in some cases they just grab hold of whatever, tin they can see and they just build temporary shelters just while they wait for the government help," he said.
"In the meantime, the villagers, they are already cutting timbers from the forest, the fallen trees, so they are extracting that and they are storing it, until the other materials arrive from the government and they distribute this timber amongst the villages."
The Fiji government launched the Help for Homes initiative and lowered its usually high import tariffs so foreign companies could send timber as quickly as possible.
But some New Zealand companies have said there wasn't a long enough low-tariff window, and there's a slow process in issuing import licences.
The Sales Manager of Max Birt Sawmills, Shannon Birt, said there is demand all across New Zealand and while they are doing their best to prioritise urgent demands from Fiji, the government there could be more flexible to assist with planning.
"Even our own log forecasting, it needs extensive planning, and we are operating three to four months in advance of trying to predict what the market needs," he said.
"It would help the forward planning and it would help us look at longer term supply options."
But others say there just isn't enough wood.
The Wood Products Manager from Topex Exports, Joe McLeod, said he usually sends up to 2,000 cubic metres of timber a year to Fiji, but that order has doubled since Cyclone Winston.
He said Fiji has extended the lower tariff period until the end of the year, and he's happy with the way import licences are issued, but the local construction boom means there's just not enough supply.
"The reality is there's only so much timber produced within a given time frame," he said.
"As much as possible is going into Fiji at present, any more and you start having other logistical problems, like vessel space and that's been a problem that we've all experienced."
Joe McLeod said Fiji's aims to rebuild before the end of the year may have been too ambitious.
Mr Duaibe said despite the delay, the government has managed to distribute the materials that are arriving fairly and is collaborating well with aid groups that are still working throughout the country.