4 Aug 2016

Community leader says Tongan PM should have made Katikati trip

3:47 pm on 4 August 2016

A community leader says he is disappointed Tonga's Prime Minister has cancelled his trip to Katikati to visit the families of five Tongan men who died in a car crash.

Four of the five men were part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme and all worked at the Aongatete kiwifruit coolstore in the New Zealand town.

They were leaving work at the coolstore when their car was hit by a logging truck on Tuesday night.

Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva, who is visiting New Zealand, was expected to meet with family members and attend a community remembrance service in Katikati today.

However, his office said the plan had been cancelled because they were advised not to fly due to bad weather and police had not given clearance for the men's bodies to be released.

The chair of the Tongan Advisory Council Board, Melino Maka, said the visit should have been the top priority.

"This is one of the saddest things for our Tongan community and especially the Katikati Tongan community.

"You need to understand that when (there's) a tragic event like this, you, as a prime minister, need to drop everything and try to be with the family and make sure that the family knows that you are there to support them in this difficult time," he said.

A spokesperson for Mr Pohiva said the prime minister will fly back to Tonga on Saturday where he would meet with families there.

Tonga's Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva

Tonga's Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva Photo: RNZI/Alex Perrottet