Tongan PM calls for longer work visas for New Zealand during tsunami recovery

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Seven months after the tsunami in Tonga, the Vakaloa Beach Resort in Kanokupolu is a wasteland of destruction.

Huge concrete slabs torn from foundations, corrugated iron wrapped around trees amidst an overturned landscape.

The old complex is gated, owner Maryanne Tuku’afu in Australia. She told 1 News the family had decided to take a break before returning “if given the opportunity to rebuild and start over”.

READ MORE: New Zealand announces $8 million funding increase for Tonga’s climate change fund

She says the family is still awaiting a response from the government for the cleaning of beaches, road and infrastructure.

“We can’t start from scratch until the public site is cleaned up,” she says.

In the village of Kanokupolu which is a little further inland, what appears to be business as usual is not.

Many residents worked at the resort and are no longer able to support their families.

Aisea Taukei’aho further says that it is now difficult to grow food as rocks and silt have affected the ground.

“It’s very difficult now because we have to rely on other families from outside the area to feed us and support us, we’re not used to doing that,” he said. .

There are calls for New Zealand to help by providing work permits for people affected by the tsunami.

Tonga’s Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni said it would be great if there was an option for a longer work permit than the current seasonal worker scheme “so workers can bring their families to New Zealand hopefully this will alleviate some of the social problems we are experiencing”.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed that the government was looking at what could be done, but was keen to deprive the Kingdom of its national workforce.

“It’s an issue that has been discussed – absolutely an opportunity to discuss more about what we could do to play a useful role,” she said.

This is a vital role, given that Tonga’s road to recovery is far from easy.


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