‘Vaka e Masiva’ for the Niuas  to be launched

    A trimaran designed to meet the needs of poor and isolated people in the outer Tongan islands will be launched in Auckland next week.

    The wind powered double hulled canoe is the first of its kind to be designed by the North American Boat Designers Hall of Fame member Dick Newick.

    The project is informally called ‘Vaka e Masiva’ or The Poor’s Boat.

    It was built in Pipiroa, near Thames in the Coromandel Peninsula and will be launched on November 21.

    It is currently in Auckland at Half Moon bay to be fitted with its sails and mast .

    The trimaran has an engine which is only used when it docks at Niuafoʻou because the island has no wharf.

    Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, who is monitoring the boat project, said the running and operating costs for a boat to the Niuas were the key factors behind the project.

    Dr. Halapua, whose father was from Niuatoputapu, came up with the idea while he was visiting the outer islands of Tonga during his political career in the kingdom in mid 2000.

    He saw how the people of Niuafoʻou and  Niuatoputapu struggled to make ends meet because there was no regular boat service to transport goods from mainland Tongatapu to the Niuas.

    Dr. Halapua discovered the Tongan government could not schedule a regular shipping travel to the Niuas because it would cost taxpayers about TP$60,000 for one travel.

    The cost meant there was no way the government could recover that amount of money because the Niuan travellers were few and their need for supplies was marginal.

    According to Tongaʻs census in 2006 there were about 700 people living in Niuafoʻou and 1000 people living in Niuatoputapu.

    The trimaran can carry 12 passengers with enough shipments.

    Ideas

    The cost of the NZ$600,000 trimaran has been donated by the Niuans living overseas.

    Dr. Halapua said when he asked Newick to design a boat for the poor he responded that there was no such thing as boat for the poor.

    He told Halapua the boats he designed were for rich people because only the rich could afford them.

    But Halapua persisted and Newick agreed to undertake the project when he told him this could be the first time he designed such a boat .

    “While we were in Australia to raise funds for the project one woman said she was concerned that the Niuans were regarded as poor and that they were raising money because there was poverty in the Niuas,” Dr. Halapua said.

    The woman thought the label let the people of Niua down.

    Some people even wanted to cancel the boat project and raise money for a mobile mortuary, which they said was more important.

    Dr. Halapua said he explained to the people he understood Niuans overseas had money, but the situation in Niua could not be improved because there was no boat to reach them with the good things they wanted to send them.

    Halapua said he named the project ‘Vaka e Masiva’ because the main reason the people of Niuans suffered was that goods could not reach them.

    “There was a project for the Niuans to grow vanilla, but the project was cancelled because there was no boat to take the fruits to Tongatapu or Vavaʻu for processing and marketing,” Dr Hapaua said.

    “A group of people travelled from overseas to Tongatapu to travel to Niua for a funeral and they could not make it to Niua after they arrived in Tonga because there was no ferry to take them there

    “A Niuan rugby league player in Australia sent money to her sister in Niua to run a small retail shop

    “He later called to check on the business and he was a bit worried when he was told the shop was defunct because there was no boat to keep supplying goods for the shop from Tonga or Vavau”.

    Technology 

    Dr. Halapua said people made positive fun of the project and said Niua was going backward because they created  a boat  powered by wind.

    But Halapua said it was better to have the wind powered boat than nothing.

    He said if they built a motorised vessel it would not last long because the Niuans would not be able to maintain it financially.

    Halapua said that would decide how often the Vaka e Masiva’  sailed to The Niuas after they took it to Tonga.

    It has been built in Pipiroa, near Thames in the Coromandel Peninsula, and it will be launched on November 21.

    It was currently in Auckland at Half Moon bay to be fit with its sails and mast before continuing on to Tonga and being delivered to the Niua Island communities.

    The main points

    • A trimaran designed to meet the needs of poor and isolated people in the outer Tongan islands will be launched in Auckland next week.
    • The project is informally called ‘Vaka e Masiva’ or The Poor’s Boat.
    • Sitiveni Halapua, who is monitoring the boat project, said the running and operating costs for a boat to the Niuas were the key factors behind the project.
    • Halapua, whose father was from Niuafoʻou, came up with the idea while he was visiting the outer islands of Tonga during his political career in the kingdom in early 2000.

    For more information

    Sustainable shipping in remote Tongan islands (Pacific Cooperation Foundation)

    Looking for a new spaceship captain? Try the skipper of the Niuafoʻou ferry

    Young  bride faces the nightmare of a mother-in-law’s fakalotoloto

    Tongan family’s heartbreak after father dies and is buried before they arrive to say goodbye

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