After more than three decades of living in a temporary settlement without a tenancy agreement or land rights guarantee, residents of Pātangata were celebrating last week after the new government of ʻAkilisi Pōhiva made a decision to subdivide the area and distributed it amongst them.
Tongaʻs Ministry of Land and Survey workers who measured and divided the land were entertained and given gifts by the villagers.
The land offer came after a number of eviction and relocation orders were received by the settlers way back in 2001 and 2002.
During the celebration decorated vehicles paraded through the village and women were seen wearing manafau and had covered their heads with garlands and danced to music.
The first settlers at Pātangata were people from outer islands who migrated to mainland Tongatapu bringing their children to schools and seeking employment.
In 2001 the settlers received eviction and relocation order which was followed by others in 2002 after which an appeal was made to the king but it was turned down.
The eviction order was made based on government concerns about the settlers’ health because a significant part of the land was used as a rubbish dump for the capital’s garbage and refuse.
It was unsafe because the rubbish was dumped in the swamp and it was circulating around the settled area by the sea when it was high tide.
This has produced “a pervasive rotten smell that made life unhealthy and unpleasant”.
The eviction and relocation orders were not enforced after the Alouaʻs Water for All project funded by the Japanese government intervened and assisted the village with construction of 900 water tanks which was later replaced by portable fiber glass water tanks.
Villagers were also given sanitation programs that included land-filling and home improvement projects.