Tonga trip maps way for cyclone rebuild

Dr Peter Rodwell and Lei’ataua Tahaafe believe their recent cyclone relief trip to Tonga was a success.

Last month both men, who are members of the Pasifika Safe Shelter Trust, took a 15-day trip to Tonga to see how they could assist in the Cyclone Gita relief effort.

On their trip they met with the Tongan Government, discussing with government ministers and ministry heads how they could help those most vulnerable, in preparation for a rebuild effort Dr Rodwell and the trust planned to carry out next year.

The men also met New Zealand High Commissioner Tiffany Babington, who passed on to them several contacts that would be useful to their cause.

Several business executives in Tonga had also got behind the project.

“Our real game is to work in partnership with people and with businesses over there,” Dr Rodwell said.

He said the Government helped them, by giving them not only the list of the 7500 damaged homes in Tonga, but also the vulnerability levels of the families that were affected.

“We were just welcomed in on the spot and we basically got everything we asked for,” he said.

“I wasn’t expecting that total co-operation.”

Both men also took photos of the damaged buildings and examined villages that were badly affected in the disaster.

Dr Rodwell, along with Mr Tahaafe and several others, plans to head back to Tonga in April-May.

A memorable moment for him was when he visited two families for whom Mr Tahaafe built houses on a previous trip.

Since Mr Tahaafe’s last visit, the families had made several renovations to their houses, including floors, windows, and doors.

“This was exciting as both families were very, very happy and well motivated to improve their situation,” he said.

With a plan in place and the support of the people, Dr Rodwell said the goal now was to raise $500,000, which would help cover the costs of the rebuild project.

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