Tongans given deadline to settle land issues
Authorities in the Tongan islands of Ha'apai have given residents 2 weeks to finalise land issues that have been stalling the rebuilding of hundreds of homes since Cyclone Ian in January 2014.
Authorities in the Tongan islands of Ha'apai have given residents 2 weeks to finalise land issues that have been stalling rebuilding since Cyclone Ian in January 2014.
The Governor of Ha'apai Mo'ale Finau has met with World Bank officials to discuss progress of the project which they gave over 13 million US dollars towards.
Mr Finau told Koro Vaka'uta only half of the more than 500 houses needed have been built but they are hoping to complete the project by August.
MO'ALE FINAU: The factor that really slowed down the progress as far as reconstruction was concerned is land issues so we have given two weeks to those beneficiaries who still need consent in order for their houses to be built we give them two weeks to find any lot, anywhere, that they may have the permission for their house to be built on. Whereas the old consent it was required for the beneficiaries to find the landholders wherever they are, to sign the consent form. Now we kind of relaxed or have that policy revised a little bit so the beneficiaries themselves, they are able to find, let's say if I have a cousin, a brother or an uncle who can allow me to build their house on their lot, it can be done. That has really helped out with this issue.
KORO VAKA'UTA: That is something the community also is open to doing? They are happy with that arrangement?
MF: They're happy. All the people who are attending the meeting they are happy because we have no option. There is no option for us to move into. This is the only option because the World Bank's aim is to build a house for those who were here during the cyclone. If somebody, let's say has a house here but went to New Zealand or he was in New Zealand, nobody was living here in a house so that house cannot be built according to that World Bank policy. The policy is to build the house for somebody who was here during the cyclone so after the meeting the people were happy and I could feel that we are moving forward.
KV: So just to clarify Governor, in the past they needed written consent from the overseas families but now that consent is not needed? Is that right?
MF: It is still needed but we are going to relax that consent requirement because it is very strict. The policy is not to build that house for somebody who is living overseas. If somebody was living overseas and his house is here in Ha'apai and nobody was living in there during the cyclone and the house was destroyed, the house cannot be built in this policy. The policy is to build the house to the person who was living in the house during the cyclone. If I stay in Sione's house and Sione is in America, now if I want to build a house for me because I am the victim and if I couldn't find Sione then I have to find somebody else's land to sign the consent and I can go and build my house on that land. After two weeks, for those who still haven't got consent, there is no choice, the World Bank and the government will go back and build exactly where the house was destroyed and then perhaps the victim and the landholder will sort it out later.
KV: That won't cause any problems in the future?
MF: Well, as I have said, we don't have any other option. This is the only way we can finish this project.
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