Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

#PacificMission: Importance of climate resilience highlighted in Tonga

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Hon. Hu’akavameiliku and Hon. Carmel Sepuloni. Photo: Matangi Tonga
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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

Rebuilding crops, replanting vegetation and trees with a strong faith and belief is how Mele Sila describes the efforts of her village when it comes to climate adaptation and recovering from a natural disaster.

Mele, who is from the village of Ha’atafa in Tongatapu, recounts the lasting impact left by the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January last year. It triggered tsunami waves of up to 15m which struck the west coast of Tongatapu, ’Eua and Ha’apai.

Addressing Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni’s Pacific delegation in Tonga this week, Mele says her people continue to show resilience and that she is humbled that her village has been chosen to launch the Pacific Climate Resilience and Tree Planting programme.

“In the days following the Tsunami we were totally cut off from the rest of Tongatapu,” she says.

“Surrounded by debris, our livelihood was completely destroyed. Crops, vegetation that we had been planting for years such as sandalwood and breadfruit, all gone.”

However Mele says the Kainga (family) and village of Ha’atafa are determined and are moving forward to rebuild despite the many ongoing challenges they face due to climate change.

She’s pleased the Tongan government chose their location, where the Ha’atafa Beach Resort once stood, and says it is fitting that the NZ delegation see first-hand their efforts in climate adaptation.

Minister Sepuloni, alongside Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Minister for Pacific Peoples Barbara Edmonds took the first steps to plant trees across the area of Ha’atafa.

Mele says more projects are needed in coastal areas destroyed by the tsunami and adds that she would like to see another project focused on growing mahogany in their area supported by both the Tonga and New Zealand governments.

The launch in Ha’atafa coincides with New Zealand’s announcement of the Climate Change Flagship initiative that aims to accelerate an evidence-based approach to climate-action. The NZ$30 million partnership announcement made at Ha’atafa will be delivered by Tonga’s meteorology, energy and disaster management ministry (MEIDECC).

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