23 July 2016
Tongan officials said community projects undertaken by a multinational task group led by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) were expected to reduce the vulnerability of remote communities to the impact of drought.
The projects, designed to improve water storage in two main islands in Tonga’s Ha’apai island group, were undertaken as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight 2016 and formally handed over today to the Tongan government.
“Tropic Twilight conducted a vast field of activities that will directly improve the resilience of communities in Ha’apai in addressing some water security issues and safety equipment shortages. It was also an opportune time to collaborate with partners to address health issues,” said Siaosi Sovaleni, Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Josh Wineera, NZDF Task Force Commander and Senior National Officer, said about 40 personnel from the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Air Force worked alongside engineers from Tonga, China and the United States to improve water storage and sanitation in Lifuka and Foa islands.
Nine 10,000-litre water storage tanks were installed at churches, the fire station and city hall in Pangai, the administrative capital village of Ha’apai. The multinational task group also built a toilet block near the Pangai Ferry Terminal.
On the health front, medical personnel from New Zealand and Australia worked with Tongan medical staff to conduct environmental health tests to assess the risk of communicable diseases such as dengue and the zika virus to the local population.
“Apart from the construction projects, members of the multinational task group also engaged with the local communities. This included outreach activities at schools in Lifuka, which were well-received by the students, teachers and principals,” LTCOL Wineera said.
“The installation of the water storage facilities complements New Zealand’s broader development assistance to vulnerable communities across Tonga. It will go some way to increase the resilience of Ha’apai communities during seasons that are drier than normal or extend to periods of drought,” New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga Sarah Walsh said.
Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said activities undertaken as part of Tropic Twilight demonstrated New Zealand’s continuing commitment in the Pacific and marked a fresh opportunity to strengthen defence cooperation with Tonga and other international partners.
“Tropic Twilight started years ago as a military exercise to get our personnel ready to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. But it has since evolved into a major multinational activity and the projects we have been undertaking in recent years are making a positive and tangible difference to communities in the Pacific,” MAJGEN Gall said.
Tropic Twilight is a recurring humanitarian activity focused on disaster relief operations that was conducted this year in Tonga from 7 July. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade funded the projects that were delivered as part of the New Zealand Aid Programme.
Issued by the New Zealand High Commission Office in Nuku’alofa