7 Mar 2014

NZ giving more aid to stricken Tonga

9:31 am on 7 March 2014

The New Zealand Government says it will continue to provide aid to Tonga following Cyclone Ian, which hit the Ha'apai island group in January.

The New Zealand High Commissioner in Tonga, Mark Talbot, says New Zealand has contributed a total of $2.4 million to the recovery effort, with $1.7 million going towards restoring power.

Mr Talbot says the remainder provided tents, fresh water, seeds and tools for agriculture and assistance to aid agencies on the ground.

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Photo: RNZAF

He says the Tongan government is still working out how to best tackle the disaster but can count on New Zealand's help in rebuilding houses, agriculture, schools and getting business back on its feet.

Mr Talbot says there is more to do. "We're prepared to help with further requests for the reconstruction of the island and I am not just talking housing here but of course there are many needs including agriculture, the schools and getting business back on its feet."

The storm, which had winds of more than 250 kilometres an hour, killed one person, injured 14 others and displaced 4000 people.

It flattened infrastructure and half of all commercial buildings, damaged 13 out of 17 schools and wiped out most of the food crops.

Tongan National Emergency Office director Leveni Aho says repairs are estimated to cost at least 65 million dollars.

"It will take quite a few years to get the whole place back into normality. Our figures are based on what's been damaged to housing, infrastructures and agriculture but they haven't taken into account the actual impact on the economy. I think that's a much longer term."

Mr Aho says the emergency office is working hard to replant crops, provide clean drinking water and food, and has set up temporary schools.

And he says the construction of permanent housing, which will be funded by the government as most properties were uninsured, will begin by the end of the year.

But Tongan Red Cross general secretary Sione Taumoefolau says the government has still not approved a housing plan, leaving those without homes in limbo.