Fijian-born soldier commands NZ Army construction troop

May 29, 2024 5:37 am

Lieutenant Jokaveti Waqanivalu [Source: Supplied]

Being in Tonga’s remote Ha’apai islands with the New Zealand Army’s Exercise Tropic Twilight reminded Lieutenant Jokaveti Waqanivalu, of her home country Fiji.

As the Construction Troop Commander, the former Auckland Girls’ Grammar School student had a key role in the annual humanitarian exercise.

The exercise saw skilled tradespeople support local projects that will help boost the Pacific kingdom’s resilience to natural disasters.

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Lieutenant Waqanivalu moved to New Zealand when she was four years old and grew up in south Auckland.

[Source: Supplied]

She says the Fiji village she’s from is not unlike those in Ha’apai.

While looking after 37 personnel on deployment was at times a steep learning curve, Lieutenant Waqanivalu says her Fijian heritage meant she had a greater understanding of local ways.

Tropic Twilight, which is funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, returned to Tonga for the second year in a row to support the kingdom’s recovery from the 2022 Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai eruption.

Almost 60 NZ Army personnel were joined this year by soldiers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia, United Kingdom and Japan, spending five weeks in the Ha’apai islands completing health and construction projects.