photo: cyclone meena gathers strength as it nears the cook islands. // OPINION What lessons can we learn from the latest cyclone season? Possibly the first is that we do not seem to be learning anything. We live in the world tropical zone. There are cyclones nearly every year. Most years the country is lucky. Some years we are not. Over any 100 year period, there may be three or four years when we can be very unlucky. The worst year of the last century was 1997 when 19 died, in Manihiki, during cyclone Martin. No one died this year. In fact, we got off quite lightly. Pukapuka was devastated, but no one drowned. Light damage means big dollars, however. According to government, eight percent of all rooms were knocked out by cyclones, five in as many weeks. Eight percent may not seem high. Most of that eight per cent is made up of premium waterfront rooms, from which the industry earns top dollars and bookings. Latest statistics show occupation rates of around 60 to 70%. Take your cyclone-gutted rooms from that total and the percentage rises to 11% or more than one in ten of the country's top producing rooms. Let's give a big discount and say each of those rooms were worth $100 a night. That comes to about $16,000 a night lost revenues, or $112,000 a week. Give about three months for those rooms to get back to full capacity and we are talking a minimum total loss of $1,456,000. And yet authorities continue to allow properties to erect rock walls that have been proven, over and over again, not to work. In fact, rock walls are against the law as they have a negative impact on the environment. No one wants to enforce those laws. What will happen when we get hit by the big one? Another, more worrying, example. At the height of Cyclone Meena, about 20 people were praying for their lives aboard a small trading ship. By some miracle, they made it through alive. It could easily have resulted in as many deaths as Cyclone Martin, three years into a new century instead of ninety seven. What was the ship doing there? Why was it allowed to sail straight into the cyclone zone? What warnings were given by authorities? If any, why were those warnings ignored? Why has there been no inquiry or prosecution? Risking the lives of 20 people would seem to be good cause to hold an inquiry. In fact, it might be a good idea to call a commission of inquiry. Then repeat that inquiry every year, tasking it to recommend prosecutions against those who continually fail to wake up to the fact that we live smack, bang in the middle of a tropical cyclone zone. Otherwise, more Cook Islanders will pay for official inaction. With their lives. And that's another lesson we seem to be stuck on learning, over and over again.