Tonga hoping for release of NZ aid
The Tongan goverment is hopeful that a meeting with the New Zealand foreign minister will lead to suspended aid being released.
The Tongan government is hopeful that a meeting with the New Zealand foreign minister will lead to suspended aid being released.
Murry McCully spent three days in the kingdom this week.
Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni told Koro Vaka'uta what was discussed and what is hoped will come out of it.
SIAOSI SOVALENI: We've got a target for 2018 of reducing our dependence on diesel fuel by 50 percent and New Zealand is helping a lot in actually trying to achieve that target. So we were discussing some potential renewable projects. The other main one was the reconstruction in Haapai. We took a day trip down to Haapai we inspected a few sites looked at some of the schools. The majority of the funds from New Zealand is to actually rebuild some of the schools in Haapai. We were happy that the Minister actually took some time out to actually inspect those sites.
KORO VAKAUTA: In terms of assistance on either of those projects, what kind of assistance was offered?
SS: Some of it New Zealand is currently helping out in actually upgrading some of the lines to the rural areas. Whereby so we can improve the efficiency and also improve the safety of those lines to the villages. With New Zealand, I think it's round about 5 million dollars. Whereby they are looking at reconstructing and helping out with rebuilding some of the school buildings which were affected by the cyclone last year. One of the main discussion, is the progress or the lack of progress, so we can find out a better way of expediting the whole process.
KV: I understand that this week also it was announced that the release, if you like, of a number of houses on Haapai and that there would be more down the road in a months time as well?
SS: We are nearing the cyclone season and what we are actually trying to do is get as many people into the buildings as soon as we can. Unfortunately for the schools, we are just getting started, we just have to follow certain procedures. But hopefully we can shorten that time frame so we can get the kids back into the classrooms, or some of the newer ones. Because right now what we do is actually merge some of the classes, so we can accommodate them.
KV: There has been a figure bandied about in that about 80 percent of victims from Ian being in tents still. So is that being addressed?
SS: We are actually pushing that. There were some land issues that we are sorting out, we are making progress on that and also the discussion with contractors on how they can push the work so that we can as many more people into places. Right now we are looking at June to actually complete that housing project.
KV: And in terms of the general relationship between New Zealand and Tonga in regards to aid. I have seen reports, there has been a release of the aid that was suspended in 2013 related to the MA60. Can you confirm what's the situation with that aid relationship?
SS: First of all we appreciate the effort that Minister McCully actually took to come down here in Tonga early in the life of this new government. That's very important to actually see what we can work on. And for us to consider New Zealand's view when we are actually planning out our new budget for 2015. And also on the agenda, with regards to the MA60 the current government inherited this issue that we need to resolve and we've taken a few actions that we believe is leading towards a more satisfactory outcome for New Zealand and Tonga. With regards to the aid being released, there was some positive news that we might be looking at getting those funds, that were frozen due to some, I guess, misunderstanding or lack of progress with regards to the domestic airline.
KV: So things look promising, but no confirmation as yet?
SS: Very, very promising and I think we are on the right track.
KV: Do you know when there maybe some sort of answer in regards to that issue?
SS: I believe very soon, but maybe probably have to go through a process, but its look very positive. MA60 actually have a current license but we are working with the Tonga civil aviation and hopefully ICAO and CAC from China to actually sorting out our actual requirements needed.
KV: To surmise the visit with Mr McCully what do you feel the Kingdom got out of it?
SS: The meetings that we have had was very constructive and very helpful and actually its thinking about the long term relationship. Because we always consider New Zealand a very good neighbour and having him visiting us early in the new government I believe is key. I mean and I think to some extent the fact that he had a meeting with most of the Ministers, the Cabinet, was a testament to actually how we value his visit. We had some very constructive discussion on various issues that will contribute to a good working relationship between Tonga and New Zealand.
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