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King of Tonga to provide Keynote Address at IFAD

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His Majesty King Tupou VI of Tonga is travelling to Rome to address delegates from IFAD’s Member States attending IFAD’s 38th Governing Council to be held on February 16-17, on the invitiation of the President of IFAD Kanayo Nwanze.

The Governing Council this year will focus on rural transformation as the key to sustainable development.

King Tupou’s presence at the Governing Council is expected to draw the attention of Member States worldwide to the issues being faced in the Pacific by rural people living on islands throughout the region.

This visit by King Tupou VI to IFAD follows shortly upon the recent address by the Prime Minister of Cambodia to an IFAD-financed gathering in his country in December 2014 and the address made by the Prime Minister of Samoa at the IFAD-sponosred event on organic agriculture at the Global Conference on Small Island Developping States in September 2014.

This high-level engagement with IFAD in the region relfects a growing recognition by leaders in Asia and the Pacific region for the importance of investing in rural people and the role that IFAD financing can play.

The IFAD-financed Tonga Rural Innvoations Project provides an excellent showcase for how Pacific governments and NGO’s are making strides in addressing these issues through community empowerment, rural infrastructure, mobilisation of the private sector and partnerships with other development partners.

Games Council approves Tonga’s master-plan

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The Pacific Games Council has given Tonga the thumbs up as the countdown for the 2019 Pacific Games to be hosted here begins.

Executive Members of the Pacific Games Council were here for the past five days, meeting with the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee, TASANOC and Government representatives (see : loipinel.fr).

Council President Vidhya Lakhan told the local media at a press conference here in Nuku’alofa earlier this morning that the Council was happy with the progress so far.

“The PGC Executive Board is satisfied that the Master Plan is consistent with the ‘Walking Games’ concept, where the majority of the Games’ venues are located in the main population centre of Nuku’alofa and within the walking distance of its schools which will house the Games athletes,” he said.

“There are 12 schools currently catering for over 6,800 students within walking distance of the Te’ufaiva Stadium.

“The is also the key to ensuring that after the Games, the venue are easily accessible to the future youth of Tonga, leaving positive legacies which justifies the investment in the 2019 Pacific Games.”

Vidhya said Tonga has had the chance to learn from past mistakes of those who had hosted previous Games.

“We are pleased to see that Tonga’s Master Plan avoids the mistakes that some previous Games hosts have made in building venues in locations where few people live and where public transport to these venues is limited,” he said.

“The PGC Executive Board is also pleased that the proposed funding model for the 2019 Pacific Games will not be a burden on the people of Tonga and will not unduly impact on Government’s existing expenditure budgets.”

Vidhya said they have urged the Government to endorse the Master Plan and move swiftly towards the implementation “so that the venues can be built and refurbished well in advance of the 2019 Pacific Games”.

He added that the Council stands ready to work with Tonga in ensuring that the Kingdom is able to deliver in hosting the Games.

The Games will be centred around the main planned venue beside Tonga High School and Nuku’alofa Government Primary School, Tonga College in ‘Atele and the Loto-Tonga Football Complex in Veitongo.

“The Pacific Games Council Executive Board timed its visit to take an early opportunity to meet representatives of the new Tongan Government following national elections in late 2014,” Vidhya said.

The Board met with Prime Minister Hon Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva and Sports Minister Hon Sosefo Fe’ao Vakata.

“During these meetings, the new Tongan Government reiterated its support for Tonga’s hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games.”

Council Executive Director Andrew Minogue said they were keen to see Tonga’s progress and also hope that Tonga will send a strong contingent to the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea in July.

The Chairman of the 2019 Pacific Games Organisining Committee, Lord Sevele of Vailahi told the media that they were hopeful Government will approve their plans.

“We believe they have in principle and we need them to approve the plan that we have before them so that we can start working on funding and the processes involved in constructing the facilities that need to go up,” Lord Sevele said.

Majority of the funding is expected to come from donor agencies.

Lord Sevele said the total budget for the Games is $250 Million Pa’anga.

Out of that $200M is earmarked for the construction of facilities.

Meanwhile, Vidhya said the amount is not a big one, considering the fact that majority of it will go towards construction and refurbishment of facilities.

He told the media that Tonga had seven years to prepare for the Games.

“That is the timeline given to them,” he said.

He was concerned that there was an 18months delay initially but added that was not a major problem.

“While we had lost 18 months, we can manage the process,” he said.

“The plan is good, practical and affordable and what we need now is for Government to endorse it so that work can start.

“We can’t afford further delays as processes take time.”

Both Vidhya and Lord Sevele agreed that the facilities that are going to be built will be for Tongans over the next 50 to 100 years.

SPC and EU support Tonga and Palau partnership

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The first Palau-Tonga exchange to share lessons learnt about coastal protection measures began this week.

The exchange involves a seven-member delegation of legislators and government officials from the Republic of Palau, including densely populated Koror State, visiting Tonga to learn about methods to enhance the resilience to climate change of coastal communities in eastern Tongatapu.

“This exchange is opening up our eyes to options for coastal protection other than the familiar sea wall and mangrove responses,” the Associate Climate Change Coordinator, Office of Environmental Response and Coordination, Government of Palau, Xavier Matsutaro, said. “It’s encouraging us to look outside-the-box to find solutions for our government and coastal landowners who are facing serious erosion issues,” Mr Matsutaro added.

The South-South cooperation was initiated by the Government of Palau who co-funded the exchange visit with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union through the Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States project.

The site visit includes meeting with the local communities involved in the project to understand their views and needs.

During the exchange, the delegation is visiting several of the project sites in Tonga, where two different types of coastal protection measures are being constructed.

“Through the exchange we are able to openly discuss many climate change adaptation options, including relocation,” the Director and Engineer, Public Works and Capital Improvement Program of the Government of Palau, Brian Melaire, said.

“This is also an issue in Palau, for example the national hospital of Palau is located only 15 feet (5 metres) above sea level, and the government is facing the challenge of whether to renovate and expand or relocate,” he said.

The Palauan delegation also met with the Chief Executive Officer and key staff from Tonga’s Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communication to discuss their respective processes for designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating coastal protection projects.

“It’s very useful to have this unique experience to exchange our national procedures and find out how other countries are accessing funding and developing relationships with development partners,” the GCCA: PSIS Project Coordinator, Department of Climate Change, Government of Tonga, Mr Manu Manuofetoa, said.

On return next week, the Palauan delegation will present a coastal protection action plan developed during the exchange to key partners and stakeholders, based on the lessons learnt in Tonga.

Yesterday, SPC also launched the first of a series of nine country-specific climate change adaptation videos produced for the Pacific Small Island states project.

Entitled Buying time with better coastal management in Tonga, this compelling video highlights the experiences and lessons learnt in Tonga through the coastal protection project, including personal accounts of some of the 3,300 local residents who are benefitting fromefforts to advance the coastline seaward by creating optimal conditions for sediment build-up.

This action will “buy time” for six coastal villages in eastern Tongatapu, prioritized under Tonga’s Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management 2010 – 2015, as planning for the projected impacts of climate change progresses.

NZ Post cuts deliveries to three days a week

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New Zealand Post will decrease deliveries of post to every second day in urban areas from July.

A change to the standard mail delivery was announced today by NZ Post’s Mail and Communications Chief Operating Officer Ashley Smout.

Mr Smout said the decrease to every second day would be rolled out in smaller centres over the next two years.

“The way we plan to roll out these changes means we will continue to meet our delivery targets for standard letters. We’re confident customers will see very little, if any, difference in the services they receive from New Zealand Post as a result of these delivery changes. This is a priority for us,” Mr Smout said.

“Our target of 95 per cent of standard mail delivered within three working days remains, just as it is now. Six-day-a-week deliveries will continue for priority mail and courier parcels, so people should still check for mail every day.” Alternate delivery days will be tested in parts of Auckland centred around Ellerslie to fine-tune the changes before the July rollout.

Priority mail including FastPost will continue to have a next day delivery target between major towns and cities. Rural deliveries remain largely unchanged.