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Cyclone Heta Remembered


The Perfect Storm

Hotel Niue – once the flagship of the island’s tourism.

It was to be a New Year gift that no one wanted to receive.  At 1:30pm on the afternoon of Monday 5th January 2004, the most damaging cyclone to hit Niue in living memory, Cyclone Heta, unleashed its full force causing severe damage to the village of Alofi South.

Where Lord Liverpool Hospital once stood is now a pile of bricks; the Niue Hotel was so badly damaged that owners, the Niue Government, gave what was still standing, back to the landowners.

The government’s housing estate at Aliluki was a mass of rubble.  As if it was unexpectedly caught in the full glare of a bright light, the island was stunned, but only for a moment.  It didn’t take long though before help arrived.  The island needed rebuilding.  One person who helped in the rebuilding process was Ron Ebsworth.

Ron and Norma Ebsworth at Matavai Resort.

Thirteen years has passed since Ron Ebsworth and his mates came to help build replacement homes.  Ron is back, not to build any house, but for a holiday and this time he has brought his wife Norma with him.

He was eager to share with her a place where for three weeks, he worked with one mate to build a house.  In actual fact, he worked his butt off for two weeks, 12 hours a day, seven days and then had a week off, a week in which he was able to explore and enjoy a unique little island in the middle of nowhere.

Ron was part of a group of builders contracted by Cedar Sheds to build a total of 12 houses as replacements for those demolished by Cyclone Heta.  Two carpenters were given three weeks for the work with most completing the build in two weeks and had a week of relaxation.

The House Ron Built at Fualahi.

“Had a great week.  I was staying at Coral Gardens and the lady there looked after us very well” said Ron.  He remembered one challenge for the group in their week of relaxation was to drive to the eastern side of the island, then hike through the coastal rain forest to the coast, climbed down the cliff onto the reef, look for a floater washed up on the shore, retrieve it, put your signature on it and leave it as a memento at the Sails Bar at Coral Gardens.

And the biggest change that he noticed?  “Trees!  Lush tropical growth.  I can hardly believe it.  The re-growth is just astounding.  In 2004, the whole place was bare; it was hot, rainy and humid.  Now, it’s the cooler months and its great! “ he said, “Good to see the island looking great”.

And the house that Ron built?  It’s still there at Fualahi – and it will still be there for many more years to come.

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