The unpacking of aid in Tonga has been made with easier with forklifts to help distribute much-needed supplies to families.
La’auli Sir Michael Jones said he had received word that up to 70 percent of the goods in the 51 shipping containers already there would be distributed by this evening and the rest by next week.
He said the aid had to go through a 72-hour quarantine process on arrival and then the Kingdom was thrust into lockdown which led to a hold-up in distribution.
“Things were a little bit slow … because of the quarantine period and then sadly with the Covid lockdowns, so the combination of those things have meant that there has been a bit of a hold up.
“But I think that Tongan people understand, and have been very patient but yes I would like to get it out quickly, we rely on NEMO, the national emergency office, and the army are involved”, he said.
But the distribution process finally seems to be running smoothly on the ground now that the army has access to machinery.
“It is just a bit of wait and see to see that there are enough fork hoists to distribute goods in a timely manner,” Sir Michael said.
He said they were looking really organised, “You have to appreciate that with the Covid environment there, they have to be really careful.”
In New Zealand 60-100 people have been needed each day to pack containers. Sir Michael Jones hoped there were enough people at the other end to unpack when the aid is received in Tonga.
“It looks like there is an organised team there … there is some optimism that things are starting to move,” he said.
“It’s all starting to move today really, we are going to start getting people who are overjoyed and really uplifted and it has been a long haul from day one to finally get the goods, but there have been a lot of challenges in between, with Covid and quarantine.
“But these things are just part and parcel in managing borders, and I do acknowledge the diligence of the Tongan officials to do the right thing, and I think that when people do start to receive their goods which is starting to happen as we speak there will be a lot of joy”, he said.
He said it was tough to even think about the struggles families were facing, “like all of us who have a real heart for our people back home – it is really sad and concerning … just the destruction and rebuild, it is really hard to fathom how hard the people of Tonga are doing it right now.”
Meanwhile the Moana Pasifika super rugby fundraiser has received a massive influx of donations so far.
“We are still working through how we will get it to the right people at the right time, it has tripled … it’s been wonderful”, Sir Michael said.
To donate to the cause text ‘Tonga’ to 2446 to donate $3. All texts to this number will incur a $3 charge on your mobile phone bill.
Sir Michael Jones said the figure stood at $70,000, as of Thursday afternoon.
Rugby coaching greats Sir Graham Henry and Wayne Smith are sending goods over on Matson shipping containers arranged by Sir Michael Jones.
They’ve managed to source building supplies, which were asked for to help with the country’s rebuild, and contributed to care packages requested by the Queen of Tonga for the residents of Mango whose island was destroyed.
Wayne Smith said it was outstanding how much people were willing to give.
“Just don’t forget about Tonga just because it happened a while ago, they’ve been absolutely hammered, a lot of them are homeless, I know the King is putting a lot of them up on the estate and everyone’s doing a great job over there so keep giving,” he said.