NZ Army leads building work on remote Tongan island group post eruption

The New Zealand Army has led five weeks’ worth of building work on a remote island group in Tonga which will help the kingdom better respond to natural disasters, and offered dental services to the locals.

NZ Army soldiers have led five weeks’ worth of building work and dental treatment in the Ha’apai island group to help the Tongan islands build resilience. (Photo-Supplied)

The annual Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded Exercise Tropic Twilight was held in Tonga for the second year in a row to support the recovery from the 2022 Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai eruption.

The NZ Army was joined by soldiers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia, United Kingdom and Japan. Over five weeks the 74-strong multinational contingent tackled several projects in the Ha’apai island group.

The work covered four main sites; the Ha’ateiho Community Centre, the Meteorological Centre, Pangai Government Primary School and Koulo Government Primary School.

From new toilets, showers, a kitchenette and playgrounds to upgraded plumbing and electrical work, the projects focused on creating accessible and secure places for people to gather in natural disasters, with durable infrastructure to provide power and clean water.

Senior National Officer on the ground, Major James Brosnan, said the work would support communities for years to come.

“I am immensely proud of the contingent and all they have achieved,” he said.

“From solving the complex problem of getting our people and equipment to the remote location, through to the construction, medical and dental capabilities that have left a tangible impact on the communities in Ha’apai.”

Corporal Maitlin Kakau worked at the troop’s largest site, the Ha’ateiho Community Centre, and said it was different to any job he had run in New Zealand.

“Working with electricians, carpenters and plumbers from different countries was stressful at times – there was a bit of a language barrier to begin with, but we were able to work through it, helped by our similarity in training.

“What we achieved in a short time was amazing. It’s special to know it is going to such a good use.”

A New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) dental team saw almost 200 patients, performing fillings, extractions, root canal treatments and hygiene appointments.

Working with field kits out of the old hospital on Lifuka, Captain Amanda Rowe said she was proud of how her team got the job done, especially as they were a lot busier than anticipated.

“We were seeing on average 12 people a day. In the humid conditions with limited supplies, everyone worked together, under the pump, to problem-solve and get the work done.”

Captain Rowe said she joined the NZDF to make a difference in communities that need help.

“When people come in who are in real pain and you can help them, it’s a rewarding feeling,” she said.

Major Brosnan said working on a remote island presented a few challenges; supplies were limited and material sometimes took weeks to arrive.

“However our military training, collaborative approach and can-do attitude allowed us to resolve them to ensure our tasks were achieved to a high standard,” he said.

Tropic Twilight was also a chance for personnel to learn more about the Tongan culture, food, nature and lifestyle.

“Working alongside Tonga’s His Majesty’s Armed Forces meant our units were fully integrated with the local culture. The hospitality and gratitude shown by the community was second to none,” said Major Brosnan.

“It was pleasing to see how quickly the NZDF and our international partners integrated.

“I am confident that if we were required to deploy at short notice in support of disaster relief we could seamlessly integrate with our Pacific partners,” he said.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news