26 Aug 2015

New society looks to protect Tongan heritage

3:45 pm on 26 August 2015

An endangered site threatened by government development has triggered the creation of the Tonga Heritage Society.

This week the group held its first meeting following public concern about heritage areas being lost to development.

A petition to save the Popua Si'a Heu Lupe and related mounds as a heritage area has attracted over 1,000 signatures.

Local historians say the area is linked to the ancient Tu'i Tonga royal dynasty and visits by explorer James Cook.

The area is currently threatened by a planned residential subdivision to settle poor communities on the tidal flats.

The society's media and communications officer Shane Egan says the group was surprised to learn of the lack of heritage protection in Tonga.

"There's a lot of significant sites that have been documented but not really mapped out and not really protected. This is something we need to do and then we can possibly organise text-books to make school students more aware. Tonga's really significant in the whole polynesian structure so it's important for all of polynesia that we look after these things."

Mr Egan says local businessman Paul Johansson has been appointed society president.