An audio of the Prime Minister’s meeting in Ha’apai was provided by the Prime Minister’s office and transcribed and translated into English by Kaniva News. Some parts of the content of this article had been abridged and rephrased (in English) to make them clearer to our English readers.
Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa undertook to rebuild and repair damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Tino within 100 days during his visit to Ha’apai.
He said his government had changed the normal procedure in which previous governments used to address damage caused by natural disasters to make sure people’s needs were addressed as soon as possible.
He reminded the Ha’apaians at the meeting in Pangai that Tonga has been identified as the country with the second highest disaster risk in the world.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said this meant the possibility of more natural disasters affecting Tonga in the future was high.
The Prime Minister and a delegation of five cabinet ministers and government officials as well as People’s Party members got a ground-level view of the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Tino as it smashed across the northern outer islands and into main island Tongatapu last week.
He said he had been to the damaged roads, the wharf and the foreshore and he understood what to do.
The Prime Minister said his government was the people’s government and his party was known as People’s Party.
He said he wanted to make a difference by helping address people’s most urgent needs.
During the meeting he talked about the government’s new roads and repair projects for all of the 17 constituencies.
Ha’apai resident Fīnau Uata told the Prime Minister and his delegation they were happy that they came to Ha’apai to look at the damage.
He was concerned at the order of the constituencies and how they were organised for the road project and asked if the Ha’apai roads can be brought to the front of the queue.
Uata said when it was rainning the conditions of the road were really poor and it was a pity.
The Prime Minister told Uata the New Road Project must come to Ha’apai.
The Minister of Finance said a group from the World Bank was supposed to visit Tonga this week.
The World Bank offered countries like Tongan insurance cover against natural disasters, he said.
The Minister said the government was expected to start spending a US$28 million World Bank grant in March. The money would be spent over three years. The wharves and community roads would be funded from this grant.
He said the construction of the ‘Eua wharf began in December in preparation for this year’s Free Wesleyan Church’s annual conference.
After ‘Eua the construction process would move on to Ha’apai and Vava’u.
He told Uata it was better for the Ha’apai community roads to wait for this project because it was handled by World Bank.
He said the World Bank engineers would make sure these roads were well constructed and would last for up to 25 to 30 years.
The CEO for the Ministry of Finance said the government has also allocated $20 million to fund constructions of selected community roads. She said there was also $6 million grant from ADB.
The CEO for Ministry of Infrastructure said Ha’apai has 35.4 kilometres of road to be constructed or repaired in the Prime Minister’s New Roads Project.
He said the Prime Minister’s 100-day pledge was a big challenge for him but he will do his best to make it happen.
The MEIDECC CEO Paula Ma’u said the foreshore in Lifuka was priority and there was plan to continue its construction starting with 400-500 metres from Pangai and will continue on from there until it reached the Foa-Lifuka causeway.