18 Nov 2008

Chinese-funded reconstruction of Tongan capital begins

8:13 pm on 18 November 2008

Rebuilding efforts have officially begun in Tonga's capital, two years after much of it was destroyed in rioting and fire which killed eight people.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the beginning of the $US55 million construction projects funded by low-interest Chinese government loans.

The works are expected to take three years and will include new roads, footpaths, drainage, and other civil works.

Tonga's Transport Minister and minister in charge of the reconstruction project, Paul Karalus, says that the funding will drive a rebuilding process with significant local involvement.

He says it will be a makeover which utilises existing materials and buildings.

"So we do expect that while we rebuild the town, the nature of that town wil be somewhat different. Also there's good opportunity for tertiary industry and we will be tidying up a lot of the goevrnment areas in terms of government buildings and so on as part of this - not that the government is going to build buildings but that we will be making use of those buildings built by private landowners."

Paul Karalus earlier told the gathering of dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony in Tonga's capital today [18 Nov] that Nuku'alofa would once again be the abode of love, friendship and peace.