Petition calls for investigation into claims houses for tsunami victims on Nomuka and Fonoifua not finished and materials abandoned

The revelation of unfinished houses and abandoned construction materials on Ha’apai islands have fuelled concerns that the costly materials have been wasted and will never be used for their intended purpose.

The unfinished houses were intended for people who were made homeless by the 2022 Hungas eruption and tsunami in the islands of Nomuka and Fonoifua.

Allegations that various builders had arrived at the building site and left a short time later because they had not been paid were included in a petition submitted to Parliament.

Photos taken at the scene, seen by Kaniva News, appear to show a huge amount of building materials left scattered in bushes on the island of Nomuka.

The incident comes after recent allegations that the government’s tsunami re-construction projects had slowed down after local construction contractors had became disappointed with the Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. Sevenitiini Toumo’ua. 

MP for Tongatapu 5  Dr ‘Aisake Eke said in a previous interview the contractors were unhappy after Hon. Toumo’ua allegedly fixed the contract for each new house at what they claimed to be an undervalued price.

It is understood those contractors submitted a petition to the Parliament.

Dr Eke accused Hon Toumo’ua of underperforming (“ta’efakafiemālie”) in his role in handling the tsunami construction project.  

Kaniva News has contacted the Minister to comment on Dr Eke’s claims.

Dr Eke, who was a member of a select committee investigating the contractors’ complaints, told us the construction should have been conducted without delays. He said there was enough money to fund the project.

The government planned to build 48 new houses in Nomuka and 18 houses in Fonoifua.

A new petition by the residents of the islands, asking the Speaker to investigate the funding donated and allocated for the reconstruction projects, was submitted to Parliament this week.

The kāinga said they were looking forward to their new building, but were surprised when the constructors left without informing them of the situation.

The photos seen by Kaniva News appear to show building materials and prefabricated walls and roofing panels  lying abandoned in open areas.  

“We wanted to be given a certain timeline for the completion of the buildings”, the petitioners told the parliament in Tongan.

A few days after the devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami the World Bank provided an initial US$8 million emergency funding to support the Kingdom of Tonga’s response and recovery.

Another $10 million from the Asian Development Bank, as well as aid assistance from many countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the European Union, the United States  and China was also donated.

The World Bank estimated the cost of the damage was about $90 million.

We have contacted the Ministry of Infrastructure for comment.

Refugees

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the overseas donations were meant to build 268 new homes, but so far only 120 have been built.

Minister for Infrastructure Sevenitini Toumoʻua told the ABC a combination of a skills shortage and land issues had contributed to the delays.

“We’ve had some challenges along the way,” he said. “But we’re expecting works to be completed by June.” 

Refugees from some of the other affected islands have been facing hardships since they were  moved to the main island.

Some of the refuges were moved into new houses, while others are still in tents. In January Kaniva News reported on the plight of families living in tents which were flooded by heavy rain at the ‘Atatā  Jnr settlement.

For more information

“We feel abandoned.” Heavy rain worsens misery of Atatā refugees still living in tents

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