PM’s Vava‘u meeting: Visit to cyclone damaged areas, new bridge for ‘Ōtea / Falevai, safe drinking water and flush toilet projects

Kiliki ‘i he halangaope ‘i ‘olunga’ ke ke fanongo ki he fakataha ‘a e kāinga Vava’u’ mo e ‘Eiki Palēmia’ ‘i he lea fakaTonga’. For our Tongan readers here is the audio in Tongan Language

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An audio of the Prime Minister’s meeting in Vava’u was provided by the Prime Minister’s office and transcribed and translated into English by Kaniva News. Some of the content of this article had been abridged and rephrased (in English) to make them clearer to our English readers.

Prime Minister Hon Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa pledged to help areas affected in Vava’u by Tropical Cyclone Tino.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa toured the damaged areas in ‘Otu Motu Lalo – Talihau, Ovaka, ‘Ōtea, Falevai, Kapa and also Vava’u 15 and Vava’u 16 in Neiafu.

The storm brought winds of up to 180 kmh and torrential rain to the island group.

It destroyed wharves in Ovaka, ‘Ōtea and Falevai’s wharf  was partly damaged.

The Prime Minister said the Ngū hospital in Neiafu had been damaged. He said the building was previously affected before Cyclone Tino hit.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa also visited the foreshore in Talihau which was built in 2015.

New bridge

The Prime Minister told a meeting in Vava’u a proposal to build a new bridge to connect ‘Ōtea and Falevai was approved by Parliament after it was submitted by former MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu in 2003.

He said it was now 17 years since its approval and his government and the People’s Party undertook to build the bridge.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa said he was happy that he visited the proposed site for the construction.

He said the project has been included in his Party’s priorities and talks had been held with Chinese authorities to include it in their aid provided to Tonga.

He said this was not a complicated project and was part of his government’s long-term policy.   

He said his village roads policy included sealing roads with tar. He said these roads were important because villagers mostly used them. The Prime Minister said sometimes people and town officers wanted these roads’ directions changed to make them more convenient. He said the government agreed and would follow accordingly.

He said the community roads were funded by the World Bank.

A strong delegation, including seven Cabinet Ministers, government CEOs  and some members of the People’s Party, was with the Prime Minister while he was visiting Vava’u.

Safe water tanks

The Prime Minister told the meeting all towns and villages needed safe water tanks and filters.

He said 50 percent of this project was expected to be completed by 2021.

“The plan was to make sure eight constituencies have these clean water supplies during our two-year term and leave the remaining nine constituencies for the following two years,” he said.

Flush toilets for all households

Hon Tu’i’onetoa said a new project was created to make sure every household in Tonga had a flush toilet.

He said the plan was to eliminate the use of traditional pit toilets.

The Prime Minister said this would ensure the living conditions were cleaner, more civilised and people in Tonga were healthier.

He said typhoid fever had struck Vava’u in the past and that was of concern. Hon Tu’i’onetoa said this project was one of his attempts to make sure the outbreak could not happen again.

“The People’s Party wanted to change the old procedure and for the government to stand up and help the people and the towns and assist the families so they could have clean water to drink,” the Prime Minister told the meeting.

“There is a need to change our toilet system so we will be healthier in the future.”

He said the government was looking for funding for this project.

Beautiful Vava’u

He said his government’s policy to keep Tonga cleaner was given a slogan – Beautiful Tonga.

“When it comes to Vava’u it will be Beautiful Vava’u,” he said

The Prime Minister told the Vava’uans in the meeting and listeners of a live broadcast of the meeting that he was extremely elated after he was welcomed by their kāinga.

He shared with them what he said was information he received after he asked why Vava’u was nicknamed as  the Fatafata Māfana. He said the phrase described the people of Vava’u as people who loved and were warm-hearted.

They were people who lived a life of tranquility, were courageous, encouraging and nothing was difficult for them.  

He said Vava’u people were unique when compared with the rest of the people of Tonga.

Brief report on cyclone damages

Lucy Fa’anunu from the Ministry of MEIDECC, Vava’u said a team of surveyors consisting of members from  NEMO, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries, His Majesty’s Armed Forces and the Tonga Red Cross assessed 11 islands in Vava’u after cyclone Tino.

She said the damage to Ovaka and Otea wharves meant they could not be used by the public at this stage

She said the people of the islands now docked their boats directly on sand beaches.

The cyclone damaged part of Falevai wharf, but the people could still use it. Parts of Matamaka wharf and a teacher’s house at its primary school had been damaged. The Noapapu wharf was previously damaged before Cyclone Tino hit.

The Fale Hufanga’anga and the Church of Tonga hall in Hunga were also damaged. Three families in Ovaka moved to the primary school buildings and one family moved to the Free Wesleyan church’s hall during the cyclone, she said.

In Falevai a verandha was damaged after an ‘ovava tree fell on it.

His Majesty’s Armed Forces helped cut fallen trees into pieces and removed them from roads.

Produce and trees at beaches had been hugely affected. The Pangai area is still dependent on generators for its power. Kava plants at Vahe Hihifo and Leimātu’a had been affected.

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