17 Feb 2022

Collections for Tonga continue around Aotearoa

8:48 am on 17 February 2022

The Northland Pasifika community in New Zealand is planning on sending three shipping containers to Tonga packed full of essential supplies before Christmas.

Fale Pasifika Manager Johnny Kumitau said the local council is putting money towards the first container.

He is now calling on local businesses in Whangarei to help fund the others to lighten the load for families.

"When something happens everyone comes together, we have a pretty tight Pasifika community right from Dargaville to Kaitaia," said Kumitau.

Food and water donations will be needed but also equipment to turn the soil and help reignite the agriculture sector decimated in the disaster, said Kumitau.

Goods are packed for Tonga by volunteers in Palmerston North.

Goods are packed for Tonga by volunteers in Palmerston North. Photo: Nalasikau Halatuituia

"The other thing... probably looking at further down the track to support Tonga is having wheelbarrows and spades to turn the soil, to help with planting down the track, so there is a lot more to this than just food and water," he said.

Anyone in the Northland region wanting to send essential food and water to Tonga can drop the goods off to F.W.C Tongan Church at 53 Murdoch Crescent Raumanga Whangarei.

Donations from the Central North Island have been loaded into a 40ft container in Auckland. $71,000 worth of essential supplies are packed in drums from families in the central region of New Zealand's North Island.

Palmerston North Tongan community leader Nailasikau Halatuituia has been co-ordinating the shipment.

He says one drum of essential food costs around $700 to fill, some have been topped up by community donations.

"The drums are packed by families in the central region and sent directly to their families in Tonga, it's the start of the healing process from here, and also the families in Tonga when they receive those drums it's part of that connection and solidarity as part of a family and community trying to recovery from this terrible disaster," Halatuituia said.

One drum should last a family around one month, but many have been sharing food with their neighbours, he said.

"It's been tough for the communities, but they managed to pull together. The amazing thing is our youth have been volunteering, we've had schools donate too.

"Their donations go straight to schools in Tonga for example we got St Peters go to Apifo'ou College, the LAC their donation goes straight to Beulah College in Tonga and we also have donation going to the women's crisis centre and the disability centre," he said.

Volunteers packing goods for Tonga in Palmerston North.

Volunteers packing goods for Tonga in Palmerston North. Photo: Nalasikau Halatuituia

Youth in the central part of New Zealand's North Island have been doing the hard yards for Tonga.

Work is also underway to prepare for the future with long term aid plans being worked through.

Most of the small fishing boats were damaged by the tsunami and there is a great need for new boats to be sent, Halatuituia said.

"Boats would enable them to start fishing, in the agriculture sector as well they will need some help to get it up and running again," Halatuituia said.

The first container to leave the South Island is expected to leave Christchurch on Friday. It will travel to Auckland before heading to Tonga.

Christchurch Tongan Community Secretary Sami Paeahelotu said it will be closed off this Thursday.

Community leaders are looking at sending a second one," he said.

Meanwhile ten forklifts are expected to be donated to the Aotearoa Tonga relief committee which will be sent in staggered shipments.

Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee Spokesperson Pakilau Manase Lua said Turners and Growers and Foodstuffs suppliers are gifting three of the forklifts to speed up the unpacking process of essential food when it arrives.

Tongan residents impacted by the violent volcanic eruption and tsunami have reached out to New Zealanders asking if anyone can donate generators, he said.

His team was now looking for PVA 15-30 diesel generators, to send to Tonga.

"We've got requests from people on the ground in Tonga for diesel generators, ideally those which are 15-30, so we're wanting to see if there are any donors out there that are happy to donate some diesel generators, particularly for freezers and fridges and things like that which are essentials," he said.

Goods are packed for Tonga in Palmerston North.

Goods are packed for Tonga in Palmerston North. Photo: Nalasikau Halatuituia

Havelulahi Ma'asi Taukei'aho is a Kanokupolu community leader in New Zealand has been a volunteer at Mt Smart driving forklifts.

"Generators, excavators, loaders, trucks for the rocks. We already sent them food, they said thanks for sending the food and water and things, it's hard to get contact with them, we keep trying and trying," Mr Taukei'aho said.

The next Matson shipment bound for Tonga carrying aid containers is scheduled to leave Auckland on Wednesday the 16th of February.

"There are actually areas on the main island Tongatapu, like Kanokupolu out on the western district which were absolutely flattened, people have lost everything, the infrastructure is down, all the power poles and all that, so it will take a lot of time to rebuild, but also on the outer islands which were again swamped by the waters and some people have actually relocated," Manase Lua said.

Work is underway across New Zealand to gather much needed supplies to support the rebuild, Pakilau Manase Lua said he was overwhelmed by the response so far.

"We're really fortunate, we were contacted by Turners and Growers who in turn contacted Jenny Salesa one of our co-chairs, they are offering to donate two forklifts, we are in conversations with foodstuffs who have a supplier who is keen to donate a forklift, so we are looking at three so far, it's been a fantastic response," Manase Lua said.

New Zealand Tube Mills has donated a further seven forklifts. Labour MP Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki said they "heard our call, our cry for forklifts and he has answered them".

She said the Tongan workers at New Zealand Tube Mills have been emotional following the news of their employer's support.