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NZ Defence Force builds water tanks in Tonga

July 24, 2016 5:09 pm

Tonga is still in need of help two years after Cyclone Ian says the New Zealand Defence Force.

The Defence Force is in Tonga to lead the humanitarian and disaster relief exercise Tropic Twilight which includes engineers from Tonga, China, and The United States.

Lieutenant Colonel Josh Wineera told Daniela Maoate-Cox the Ha’apai group was devastated by the cyclone and water storage tanks are a much-needed requirement.

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JOSH WINEERA: Well this particular island group in Ha’apai was devastated during Cyclone Ian in 2014. So it’s an opportunity for the New Zealand Defence Force and our partner nations to come back an assess in terms of preparations and preparedness for any future natural activities.

DANIELA MAOATECOX: That was two years ago. Are they still recovering from that?

JW: Parts of. One of the much needed requirements is actually water installation. There’s a number of community halls and churches where we were able to use our engineers and bring in and just assist with some of those plumbing and some of those very engineering type tasks.

DMC: Did you install a water tank too?

JW: Yes. So we’ve installed nine water tanks throughout the two main islands of Ha’apai — Lifuka and Foa. Forces made up on engineers, medical, dental, and logistics specialists.

DMC: And how many people have you got in total?

JW: It’s a multinational force. We have 41 from New Zealand, 19 from Tonga, two from Australia, seven from China, and ten from the United States. So we also have some support from the French Air Force. So a very large force focussed on this humanitarian assistance and disaster relief programme.

DMC: That sounds like a lot of people.

JW: Ah that’s right. I mean one of the things that exercise Tropic Twilight also allows the New Zealand Defence Force to enhance our relationship with His Majesty’s Armed Forces of Tonga, but it also allows us to enhance our relationships with Australia, China, the United States and France.

DMC: How long have you been in Tonga and how much longer will you stay?

JW: Our advanced party arrived at the end of last month and the main body in the first week of July. Today we actually start to complete all of our projects, so we accomplish our main mission objectives today. We have a farewell ceremony from the community tomorrow.

DMC: The water storage tanks were installed at churches, the fire station and at city hall. How many people would use those? Would they be main points that people would come to collect water from?

JW: Not so much where it comes from, it’s actually the pumping system for the water to be distributed out to those smaller places where they can recover water from. So we’ve installed nine 10,000 litre tanks – so that’s 90,000 litres. Some of that water is actually just stored, but otherwise it’s actually just moving it around sort of the plumbing underground so it can actually come out under pressure.

DMC: How secure would these tanks be?

JW: Our engineers have put them down on concrete pads and that would be as secure as you could do. Again, it depends on the weather event itself.

DMC: But the idea is that they would hopefully withstand extreme weather coming through and give a bit of water supply – water storage – for people there?

JW: Yes, yes that’s the idea. One of the main areas which we’ve put in water tanks is at the Lifuka police station and the fire station. That, during Cyclone Ian, was the place where people came to for water supplies. So we made sure we put substantial efforts into that location.

Lieutenant Colonel Josh Wineera, the project will be handed over to the Tongan Government this Saturday, July 23.

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