15 Sep 2010

Tongans in NZ keen to vote in elections

9:47 am on 15 September 2010

Tongan people living in New Zealand are calling for certainty over whether they can vote outside the country in future elections.

Voters had to be registered by the end of August for November's election of a new legislative assembly whose members will for the first time be mainly elected by the people.

It's estimated that half of all Tongan people live overseas mostly in North America, Australia and New Zealand but the Electoral Commission says they can only vote if they're registered and are in Tonga on voting day.

Chairman of the Tongan Advisory Council in New Zealand, Melino Maka, says many New Zealand-based Tongans would like to vote but no provision's been made for them outside Tonga.

"We were trying to offer to assist them here, the Tonga officials, but the logistics of the US become more challenging for them. If they have to set it up in the US, they have to set it up in New Zealand and also Australia so the issue is around cost. Who's going to bear the cost?"

Melino Maka of the Tonga Advisory Council