NZ Houses For Tongan Island

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand Army engineers are to help build four New Zealand-made kitset houses in a $120,000 project on the remote Tongan volcanic island of Niuafo'ou, Foreign Minister Don McKinnon said today.

The houses, made by Maddren Homes of Kumeu and supplied through New Zealand Official Development Assistance funding, will be used to accommodate teachers and nurses on the semi-active volcano, which has a huge crater lake and lava floes that spill into the sea.

Delivering materials has already presented the first challenge of the project, as freight for the island has to be off-loaded from ships onto rafts for landing onto a small rocky beach. Up to seven engineers from Linton Army Camp, near Palmerston North, will begin assembling the houses in January, with help from Tongan soldiers.

Niuafo'ou, nicknamed "Tin Can Island" from the days when islanders used to swim out to collect tin cans of mail thrown overboard by passing steamers, is Tonga's most remote island, lying 200km away from the nearest landfall.

The island, which has a population of around 900, is also one of Tonga's poorest with no electricity or running water, and many people living in small huts made of coconut fronds.

Earlier this year the island was hit by hurricane winds of up to 300kmh.