4 Jul 2015

With pomp and ceremony, a new Tongan King is crowned

4:12 pm on 4 July 2015

Festivities are continuing in Tonga as the country celebrates the official crowning of King Tupou VI, which took place in Nuku'alofa this morning.

Tonga's King Tupou VI

Tonga's King Tupou VI Photo: RNZI/Indira Moala

Queen Nanasipau'u is formally crowned in Nuku'alofa on Saturday morning at the coronation of King Tupou VI

Queen Nanasipau'u is formally crowned in Nuku'alofa on Saturday morning. Photo: RNZI / Indira Moala

The ceremony was attended by heads of state, dignitaries and royal guests from around the world, including Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako of Japan.

More than 1,000 guests filled the Free Wesleyan Centenary Church in the capital to witness the ceremony.

Hundreds of school children sitting on traditional mats lined the entry to form a guard of honour as King Tupou VI, and his wife, Queen Nanasipau'u, entered.

Roy Cliff, who was part of the Solomon Islands delegation, says the event exceeded expectations.

"It was great. It's also a first time to see such a ceremony and I would just like to say that it's great."

Tonga's tourism ministry says the country's industry has been overwhelmed, with an estimated 15,000 overseas visitors in the country during coronation week, three times the number of visitors who came for the last coronation in 2008.

Tonga's Princess Pilolevu speaks with Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan at the coronation of King Tupou VI

Tonga's Princess Pilolevu speaks with Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan. Photo: RNZI / Indira Moala

Formally crowned Queen Nanasipau'u of Tonga.

Formally crowned Queen Nanasipau'u of Tonga. Photo: RNZI/Indira Moala

A spokesperson for the tourism ministry, Sione Moala Mafi, says it's good for the economy, but Tonga is at full capacity.

"Rooms and accommodation are booked out - a month or two ago before the actual week. Air New Zealand announced they had about nine flights with about three or four of those were 767 and also their Airbus. It's a pretty busy time for travellers and tourism here."

One of those who travelled for the coronation was 'Ofa Taufo'ou, who travelled back home from Auckland, New Zealand.

"We value our King and our Queen, our culture" said Mr Taufo'ou. "I don't have the words to explain how much it means to me to have royalty, and to have this occassion."

This evening, there will be a Tupakapakanava -- the lighting of torches along the coast line.

The 11-day celebrations will offficially end with a military tatoo performance on Tuesday.

Radio New Zealand International's Indira Moala is in Nuku'alofa and is live-tweeting celebrations from the RNZI Twitter account (@RNZInews)

King of Tonga, Tupou VI, has been formally crowned.

King of Tonga, Tupou VI, has been formally crowned. Photo: RNZI/Indira Moala

Guests arrive at the Free Wesleyan Church in Nuku'alofa for the coronation of King Tupou VI

Guests arrive at the Free Wesleyan Church in Nuku'alofa for the coronation of King Tupou VI Photo: RNZI / Indira Moala