Cyclone Gita: How can we help?

New Zealanders wanting to support the people of Tonga recover from Cyclone Gita's devastation are being urged to send cash.

Early on Tuesday morning, Tonga was slammed by the Category Four storm, which ripped roofs off houses and tore down trees.

As Kiwis start considering how they can help, aid agencies say it's best not to donate food, clothing or other unwanted materiel.

"Our NGOs are working alongside local organisations right now to access what is most urgently needed," says Council for International Development humanitarian coordinator Nik Rilkoff.

"It's more effective to send cash right now. People on the ground know what is needed and can quickly get support to those affected.

"The urge may be to donate food or clothing, but please don't. Sixty percent of unrequested goods sent in emergencies are not needed, and end up sitting in containers on wharves long after the disaster recovery phase is over."

New Zealand is giving an initial $750,000 to support relief efforts in Tonga.

"Initial assessments of the damage are still coming in," said Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters. "However, it is clear that Cyclone Gita has caused significant damage.

"This is an initial contribution that will enable us to respond quickly to requests from the Government of Tonga to meet immediate needs, such as emergency shelter, water and sanitation. We stand ready to provide additional support, as the extent of the damage becomes clear.

"We will also be responding to requests for assistance from New Zealanders in Tonga.

"Given the force of this cyclone, all signs point to a lengthy clean-up effort, and our thoughts are with the Government and people of Tonga, as they come to terms with the scale of this disaster."

Tearfund NZ CEO Ian McInnes told The AM Show that cash was best to help Tonga's communities.

"What you can do right now… is go to an aid agency," he says.

"Don't collect containers full of goods… we simply don't need containers full of junk on the shores of Tonga. In fact, we need cash for aid agencies.

"They can mobilise that into whatever that's required very, very smartly and of course they can do the things like the long-term rebuilding of livelihoods."

To donate to New Zealand NGOs now:

Newshub.