8 Feb 2010

New Zealand and Australia fund flights to get students to school from Tonga's out islands

11:51 am on 8 February 2010

Charter flights to get stranded students and teachers from Tonga's outer islands back to school, are being funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments after Tonga's ferry services have collapsed.

After the sinking of the Princess Ashika six months ago, services by the MV Pulupaki were stopped after it was declared to be unseaworthy late last month.

Matangi Tonga says the lack of ferry services is causing frustration and anger among people in Tonga's northern groups of islands, who are now left without a ferry service.

The people of the remote Niuafo'ou and Niuatoputapu islands, as well as the Vava'u and Ha'apai groups can no longer ship their produce to the main markets in Tongatapu or bring in food and other items they need.

Students and teachers have been unable to return to school on Tongatapu and vice versa.

Passengers are now relying on a domestic air service but the airfares are beyond what most can afford.

To ease the burden, the New Zealand and Australian governments have offered to pay for the airfares of students to fly back to school in Tongatapu from Vava'u and Ha'apai.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand, Australia and the Tonga governments are still looking for an interim ferry service until the expected arrival of a new Olovaha late next year.