WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Tsunami-hit Tongan island rises from debris two years on

Cecily McNeill
7 November 2011

altThe people of Niuatoputapu are finally able to resume their lives after the 2009 tsunami which claimed the lives of nine on the tiny and remote Tongan island – they have opened a pig farm and built 20 houses.

Fr Mateo Kivalu of Newlands parish who comes from Niuatoputapu has waged a campaign since the devastation to help the people recover their livelihood, organised funding from St Vincent de Paul Society for the pig farm and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand for the houses.

altThis has been a labour of love for Fr Mateo who has made several trips back to the island to help the people get back on their feet.

There have been discussions with the government which wanted the people to move their homes to higher ground away from their main source of income – the sea.

altFor those concerned however, this was not a good option because the houses have not been available and the land has been owned by other families, some of whom no longer live on the island.

The new houses have been built on the land on which their homes were destroyed. This land belongs to the people who live mostly from fishing and now pig farming.

altMeanwhile, the coach of the Tongan rugby team, Isitolo Maka (centre ) visited St Andrew’s Parish, Newlands on Sunday October 2, after his team beat France in the Rugby World Cup the previous day. Parishioners were very welcoming and became instant Tongan fans. The Catholic Women’s League in the parish put on a morning tea to welcome him and his family.

Photo: Toni Nacu.

Images: Top left: Fr Mateo Kivalu (right) of Newlands and Fr Lolesio Lakai of Niuatoputapu building a fence around the pig farm. Top right: one of the 20 houses Fr Mateo and helpers have built. Above: The women of Niuatoputapu preparing to sweep the ground after the pig farm is finished. Right Parishioners at St Andrews Newlands with the coach of the victorious Tongan team.