NZDF: Fiji will take years to recover from Winston

A community in the remote Fijian village of Rakiraki rebuilds after being devastated by Cyclone Winston (AAP)
A community in the remote Fijian village of Rakiraki rebuilds after being devastated by Cyclone Winston (AAP)

New Zealand Defence Force staff working in Fiji say it will take years for the nation to recover from Cyclone Winston, which struck a month ago today.

There are still 400 personnel there helping the most remote communities.

It's been a gradual and carefully orchestrated relief mission for New Zealand's defence contingent.

The island of Vanua Balavu is one of the most far flung atolls in the country.

"This is going to be years and years and years to fix up from this cyclone," says Commander of Joint Forces, Major General Tim Gall. "It's a really serious disaster."

The people in the village of Lomaloma still have their faith, but not much else. Even the basics like water have been scarce.

But Army personnel have been rolling out kits, including desalination tanks to turn seawater into drinking water.

Food security is the biggest worry.

"To a large extent water has been restored, although we are still supplying water to some places, and food will actually be an ongoing issue for three to six months while the crops regrow," says Maj Gen Gall.

In total, 350,000 people have been affected by the cyclone, including 120,000 children.

Fifty-five percent of all schools in the country have been damaged or destroyed.

Unicef says children especially will struggle in the aftermath of the disaster.

"We've got a situation here where every piece of stability in a child's life has been turned on its head," says Unicef spokesperson Alice Clements. "In far too many cases, there home is gone, their school is gone."

Auckland foodies have been doing what they can to help. Top chefs put on a Fijian feast with proceeds going to charity. More than 2000 turned out.

"It's good for Fijians to know that New Zealanders care," says chef and Oxfam ambassador Robert Oliver. "It's the caring that helps lift the spirit of the nation."

A boost in spirits is certainly what they need. New Zealand's defence commitment will continue on the ground until Fiji's government is satisfied enough has been done.