Shoreline searches of Whakaari/White Island have been hampered by poor weather this morning.
The Police Eagle helicopter left the mainland about 5.45am to undertake a further aerial search of the island, but it was forced to turn back due to the weather, says a police spokesperson.
“Conditions are being assessed to determine the viability of a second attempt by Eagle or a shoreline search by boat later this morning.
“The Police National Dive Squad is not in the water today. Police will continue to release updates as and when available.”
Prime Minister confirms emergency support package
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an emergency support funding package for the Whakatāne District that will help to alleviate the economic impact of the Whakaari/White Island eruption on December 9.
Yesterday’s announcement has confirmed a $5 million package for Whakatāne and Westland to provide immediate support to those businesses most affected within the community, in particular, small businesses and operators.
Whakatāne leaders have expressed acknowledgement of the hurt and damage suffered in Westland following recent severe weather events and appreciates the assistance that this package will provide for their district.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and Whakatāne District Council know the community is reeling and yet to come to terms with the impact of the Whakaari/White Island eruption event, and remains in grief for those who have passed away, or have been injured, their families and loved ones.
While careful not to diminish from this, there was recognition from Whakatāne leaders of the support needed through the times ahead. The partners worked swiftly together to put forward a joint request for support in order to be considered at Parliament’s final cabinet meeting yesterday, for 2019.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Whakaruruhau Sir Hirini Moko Mead says this news offers some reprieve during this terrible time of sadness and is grateful for the support that has been offered.
“We have turned to one another for strength at this time, and we have now responded to the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s offer to support us through the challenges we face,” he says.
“They are many, and they will test our strength and resilience both now and into the future, but we know with the Government’s embrace we too will be able to endure these challenges.”
Whakatāne District Mayor Judy Turner acknowledges the significant support that has already been provided in the past week.
“The Government has given support through the deployment of staff across multiple agencies including NZ Police, NZ Defence Force, National Emergency Management Agency, NZ Tourism, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and provided strong leadership through the presence of the Prime Minister and multiple Ministers in our community at a time of great tragedy.”
Judy says the community, side by side with Ngāti Awa, has kept its focus on those directly affected and their whānau.
“This is going to be a long recovery and we will do all we can to support those impacted,” she says.
“Our long term ambition in Whakatāne is anchored in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa to ensure that the cultural, environmental, spiritual and economic wellbeing of our resilient community.”
The parameters of the support package and how it will be applied, will be determined when Cabinet reconvenes in the New Year.