Tongan community leads response to Auckland flooding

Over the Waitangi weekend, over 60 community volunteers organised by the Aotearoa Tongan Response Group (ATRG) mobilised in South Auckland, providing assistance to those impacted by the recent flooding.

55 homes in Mangere affected by the flooding were visited over two days with ATRG operations based out of Akiheuho, a community based health and social services provider in Otahuhu.

The community driven effort is in response to the call put out by ATRG on February 2nd, asking for anyone to help with maintenance, repairs, and cleaning flood ravaged properties. CEO of Akiheuho and member of the ATRG board, Makahokovalu Pailate, says he is honoured to be part of another community led initiative.

“The ATRG previously led the community engagement drive for the COVID19 vaccination and disaster relief efforts for the Tongan eruption last year. I was the site manager for that and we sent 90 containers of relief aid to Tonga.”

ATRG Chair MP Anahila Kanogata’a-Suisuiiki says “It was so humbling to see so many of our community answer the call for volunteers. We even had the Maui Fusifonua Tongan Rugby League teams currently touring here helping out. We were overwhelmed by the response, and I want to thank them all and especially my team.”

Secretary Dr Soana Muimuiheata says some of the families that have been in contact with ATRG have desperate for help.

ATRG highlights the importance of community responses as they lead to better engagement and results. While the lack of resources and funding posed an issue, people readily answered the call for help providing trucks, trailers, and their time.

Despite the challenges Anahila says: “To see the happiness and relief on people’s faces when we arrived to take away the rubbish was heart-warming. To physically move the rubbish is one thing but to also be able to take it away to the tip with our trucks and trailers was a huge relief and help for flood-stricken homes.”