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 RSE workers singing at the evacuation centre.

RSE workers singing at the evacuation centre.

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RSE workers’ songs bolster spirits at evacuation centre

Pacific seasonal workers in Hawke’s Bay use songs to bring comfort to themselves and those around them, amid concerns about what their future might hold.

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
16 February 2023, 5:31pm
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​They've lost all their belongings in floodwaters and may be out of a job, but they still have their voices.

Dozens of RSE workers in Hawke's Bay were rescued from rooptops and taken to evacuation centres last night.

Crowded into Ascende Global Church in Flaxmere, the Pacific workers sang songs, bringing comfort to themselves and more than 150 people around them.

Other families held each other as they listened.

Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua says the boys are in good spirits, but ongoing support will be needed for them and all seasonal workers in the area.

“There’s going to be uncertainties around their employment situation with the orchard underwater. It’s likely to be months before anything will be back to normal, so there’s got to be some efforts around what the mid to long term plans are.

“The boys will be wondering what’s going to happen to them, some of them may opt to go back home, or not sure.”

Meanwhile, Pasifika Network group in Horowhenua have organised a truck to take donations to Hastings, and are asking the community for donations of men’s clothing and shoes, toiletries, blankets, towels and lavalava faigaluega.

Hawke's Bay community leader Tofilau Talalelei Taufale says tangata whenua have opened up their marae to help house some workers, and supports are in place.

“We’re reaching out with industry and the employers to check if they are safe, and we acknowledge that the employers are going to do their best to keep them safe.”

At Kings House Church in Napier, Charles Faletutulu says it's been hectic dealing with more than 400 evacuees, 300 of them being RSE workers.

Speaking to Coconet TV, he says it's been an overwhelming time for the workers.

"Most of these guys have lost everything. Walked through neck-high floods with suitcases holding all they have left."

In a statement to Stuff News, the recruitment centre Mr Apple said safety and well being of their employees is the first priority.

“We would like to reassure the families of our Pacific workers that everyone is safe, and we are supporting them.”​