We've heard Dr Peter Rodwell and Lei'ataua Tahaafe speak about the very real plight in post-Cyclone-Gita Tonga. We know we have families living in tents, makeshift shelters and under tarpaulins. We know they need building materials, skills and labour. Now's our opportunity to step up...
 
At our recent meeting Dr Peter Rodwell and Lei'ataua Tahaafe provided an incredible show and tell detailing the current state of Tonga, eight months after Cyclone Gita tragically hit. 
 
Their grasp of the details floored many of us in the room and their photos (taken just 2-3 weeks ago) provided stark insight into a very real plight and urgent need for support.
 
Dr Rodwell told us that Tonga is comprised on 276 islands spread over 800 kms, 50 of which are inhabited.
 
The islands are raised coral platforms, lifted out of the sea as a function of tectonic plate movements.
 
There are no rivers. Water comes from the sky or from bores below the limey sea bed. 
 
A good wage in Tonga is $35 a day. A litre of petrol costs more than $3.
 
Even those who are relatively highly paid, depend on  growing crops for food.
 
Most of Tonga was covered in coconut trees with ground level crops before the cyclone.
 
It is now, that crops are beginning to come back.
 
 
On Tongatapu (the largest island), 170 homes were destroyed and another 1,100 were seriously damaged in Feb / Mar 2018.
 
 
Land ownership is complicated. Inheritance rules of this Kingdom are largely based on primogeniture.
 
There are few builders. Building materials need to be imported. Families are living in tents.
 
There is not the money, resources, materials, skills or labour to recover. 
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Dr Rodwell estimated that the recovery status in Tonga is less than 20%.
 
These photos show what it looks like now - eight long months since people's homes, crops and normal lives were destroyed.

 
At this rate - recovery will take many years. That's why we're being asked to help.
 
The Oamaru Mail reported the creation of the Pasifika Safe Shelter Trust (PSST). PSST is sourcing land, building materials, skilled workers and more to help our Tongan neighbours get back on their feet. 
 
And when I say neighbours, here in Oamaru, we have the largest Tongan population per capita in New Zealand estimated at 15.9% of our community. So, it's time we stood up to help.
 
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