Groups band together for Tonga

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Help is on the way.

The Pasifika Safe Shelter Trust is banding together with other Waitaki community groups to deliver support to people in Tonga in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami that took place across its islands almost two weeks ago.

In a collective effort with the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group, the combined Tongan churches, Waitaki Tongan Community Trust and the Oamaru Pasifika Network, and supported by the Waitaki District Council, the trust has established a ‘‘collection point’’ for the public to donate money and non-perishable foods to be sent to Tonga in shipping containers.

Trust chairman Peter Rodwell said the first container would be filled with seeds and supply drums.

‘‘There will be an ongoing need for food until new crops can be planted and harvested. which will be four to six months’ time,’’ Dr Rodwell said.

The collection point was at the back of the old BNZ building on the corner of Thames and Coquet Sts, and the local Tongan community was also invited to pack drums for their families.

Non-perishable food items and vegetable seed packets were among the most urgent items needed, and building and gardening tools would be needed in the future, he said.

Items such as rice, pasta (dried), flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, cooking oil, tinned fish, baby formula, Milo, coffee, washing powder, toilet soaps, toothpaste and toothbrushes, drums for packing and woollen blankets were also in demand.

Dr Rodwell believed up to four containers would be sent to Tonga, but not until March, once destroyed wharves had been rebuilt or temporary structures had been put in place.

‘‘We encourage monetary gifts to help cover the expenses of container transfers and clearances to Tonga, as well as the ability for purchase of further supplies for identified local needs in Tonga.’’

In some cases it was easier to send money and items could be purchased in Tonga, but there would be shortages, he said.

‘‘We will be talking about the rebuilding process and what we need to do to rebuild homes
— but in the first instance, they need food and they need to reestablish their crops,’’ he said.

In the past, the trust had difficulty finding tradespeople during the rebuilding process, Dr Rodwell said.

‘‘There is a shortage of tradies across the Tongan islands because anybody who has a high trade will tend to go overseas and earn big money, much bigger money, and send [it] back.’’

This was a problem in the recovery process — a process Tonga was still going through after 2014’s Cyclone Ian and 2018’s Cyclone Gita.

The collection point would be open on Wednesday and Saturday, from 2pm to 7pm, or by appointment, which could be arranged by calling Dr Rodwell on 021 682-810.

Direct donations could be made Pasifika Safe Shelter Trust’s bank account 01-0964-0116825-00.

‘‘We encourage as many people as possible to respond to this urgent need.’’