Red Cross or red tape? $30 million cyclone donations unspent


Most of the donations raised to help Cyclone Gabrielle North Island flood victims remain unspent. That’s about $30m.

The Red Cross has spent only $5m of its $24m Disaster Fund donations.

The March Lotto fundraiser draw is sitting unused. That’s another $11.77m.

People in disaster zones – the supposed beneficiaries – want to know what’s happening.

Red Cross

The Red Cross is defending its timeline, saying it’s allowing for crucial planning and trials.

Secretary-general Sarah Stuart-Black says the organisation is about to ramp up its donation distribution.

It aims to distribute most of the $24m by August and the remainder by January.

It’s been a fine balance between distributing $24m too quickly and getting it wrong, and being criticised for dragging the chain, she says.

For the moment, while 79 cents of every donated dollar remains unspent, it’s earning interest of $150k.

Stuart-Black acknowledges some beneficiaries might not realise money they’ve received has come from the Red Cross.

That’s because Red Cross has teamed with others like the Hawke’s Bay Regional Trust, which it gave $1m.

Donations have also gone on food parcels, temporary accommodation and the Wairoa Liveable Homes Fund.

So far Red Cross has received 140 applications for grants and approved 32.

It’s currently assessing another 70 and hoping to make an announcement on at least 10 others in the next week.

Stuart-Black notes all donated funds and interest will go to affected communities. Red Cross is absorbing the overheads involved in managing the appeal. That is expected to cost about $1m, she says.


The Department of Internal Affairs says the $11.77m in lottery profits are for community benefit.

The funds are not available to fix individual homes, to clear silt from businesses or to mend fences on farms.

Clare Toufexis, GM Community Operations, says the special draw was to support the medium- to long-term recovery rather than the immediate relief response.

She didn’t say when the money would be distributed. Teams are working with affected communities and other providers, she says.

Meanwhile at ground level …

One uninsured Wairoa business owner says she lost least $20k worth of equipment and stock.

”That Red Cross money would have been great – we’d be in business right now.”

She’d also like the volunteers who stopped their lives to help with cleaning up to benefit.

Another says the lack of immediately-available funds from Red Cross, Lotto and the Government is unacceptable.

He’s been working with community groups using funds, volunteers and corporate connections he organised himself.

Bureaucracy and red tape are the problems, he says.

“We’ll show you the money when you show us the receipts,” farmers and growers are told. It’s a Catch-22 situation.

People are hanging out – for help, for next week’s Budget and for cash, he says.

Where was Red Cross?

Stuart-Black explains Red Cross’ absence during the cleanup.

“We’re basically enabling people to clean up rather than paying for the trucks and the diggers that are actually lifting the silt.

“We’re supporting the families and the communities through either helping to clean out their homes to make them liveable … or providing the equipment and protective gear that helps them do the cleanup themselves.”

“It takes time to think about how they want to recover, and what they need to do that.”


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