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Nepal border fees and security hold up earthquake relief

11 June 2015

PhD students, Jalesh Devkota, left, and Sunil Dhakal, are among those arranging aid for their fellow Nepalese back home post earthquake.

Canterbury's fundraisers for earthquake recovery in Nepal are facing delivery charges of up to 30 per cent to get supplies to battered cities and villages.

Beef farmer Helen Heddell, co-ordinator for the Farmy Army, said import tariffs and other delivery fees had made the group selective about what it sent.

Items in short supply included No.8 wire coils, roofing iron, nails and water filter systems.

Farmy Army co-ordinator, Helen Heddell.

Duties did not apply to aid the Nepalese government classed as high priority, like tarpaulin. But it had been hard to tell when tariffs applied, Heddell said.

Freight charges could be up to $10/kg and tariffs were extra.

Farmy Army and its partners had ruled out delivering the aid by ship and then over-land to Nepal "because we couldn't find a transparent pathway", she said.

This meant some consignments had been held back in New Zealand, including five tonne of processed peas offered by Mid Canterbury exporter, Midlands Seed.

New Zealand companies had been discounting products to make the aid-drive go further, she said. Mitre 10 stores at Ashburton and Hornby had discounted some of its tarpaulin more than $100 and the hardware chain's Australian distributor had also "come on board".

The Farmy Army, born out of the Canterbury earthquakes, had been taking advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) and voluntary sector leader Sam Johnson on how best to supply the land-locked nation.

Aid was being airlifted on pellets by Silk Air before being picked up by the same freight-forwarders that Mfat had been using.

The ministry itself had recently sent product from clothing retailers including Icebreaker, Kathmandu and Macpac. The Global Peace Foundation had been uplifting aid, working alongside the Himalayan Trust. 

Asked about the Customs fees, an Mfat spokeswoman said the best way to help people affected by natural disasters was "by donating cash to recognised humanitarian organisations who are responding on the ground".  These usually included the Red Cross, non governmental agencies and relevant United Nations agencies.

"These organisations have the networks, scale and systems to be effective in delivering aid to the people who need it," she said.

That said, people or organisations who intended to send relief supplies or personnel to Nepal "should have existing relationships with credible local organisations to ensure smooth delivery of aid to beneficiaries". 

They should also be fully familiar with the Nepal's government's requirements, especially customs and import rules.  Linking with the UN-led cluster system in Nepal could help.

New Zealand had contributed $2 million to Nepal's cause, she said. This included $500,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, $1m through New Zealand NGOs working with local partners, contributions to the Himalayan Trust and helping with assessment of damage to public buildings.

Heddell indicated Mfat had supported its goods-based approach.

Farmy Army is working with St Margaret's College to raise funds for Nepal this Friday June 12 from 1-5pm.

The event, tagged Nepal's Fete#Fill the Crate will sell supplied hardware like ropes, torches, tarpaulin as well as school materials. 

Spacewise Containers is freely loaning a 20-foot container and Mackleys Transport is freighting it to the school.

Heddell said all of the money given to Farmy Army would go to a Federated Farmers account, used to pay for freight and customs fees. Labour would be voluntary.

The Nepal New Zealand Friendship Society has separately raised $140,000, of which it has spent $70,000 on medicine, dry foods and building material.

That group includes two Nepalese doctoral students at Canterbury University, Jalesh Devkota and Sunil Dhakal. Devkota is studing for a Phd in hazard and disaster management while Dhakal is working in electrical and computer engineering. 

Through their group NZ4nepal they also hope to raise funds at the St Margaret's event for Nepal's Chetana Women's Skill Development Pokhara. 

NZ4nepal had helped 37 different volunteer groups in Nepal. A decision on how to spend the current $70,000 in hand had not yet been made but the next focus would be rehabilitation and reconstruction, Dhakal said.