Luxon expresses support for Tonga

The New Zealand Government has made an initial $500,000 available to respond to requests from the Tongan Government as they come in. Photo Twitter screenshot Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau/RNZ

Botany MP and National Party leader Christopher Luxon is expressing concern for the people of Tonga following the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami.

The undersea volcano named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted on January 15, triggering a tsunami that saw large waves wash onto the island nation.

Luxon says the Opposition shares concerns for the Tongan people and supports New Zealand standing ready to provide assistance to that country.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Tonga as they deal with the damage and distress brought about by the recent tsunami that followed a volcanic eruption.

“I know there will be many people around New Zealand waiting to hear about their family, friends and loved ones while communication remains unstable, and our thoughts are with them too.”

Luxon says the National Party’s spokesperson for Pacific Peoples, Dr Shane Reti, has reached out to local Pacific leaders, the Tongan Consul, and Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio on behalf of the Opposition to express their sympathies and offer their support.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment today to providing humanitarian assistance,” Luxon said on Sunday.

“I hope the Government is poised and prepared to deliver this assistance as quickly as possible including, if appropriate, dispatching the [Royal NZ Navy’s] multi-purpose Aotearoa vessel if planes are not able to safely fly over the volcanic ash cloud.

“We must help our Pacific friends and family in any way that we can.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Sunday damage assessments are under way and New Zealand has formally offered to provide assistance to Tonga.

The New Zealand Government has made an initial $500,000 available to respond to requests from the Tongan Government as they come in, she says.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the NZ Defence Force, and other New Zealand agencies are working through air and sea options to provide assistance to Tonga.

Mahuta says an NZDF P3 Orion aircraft is on standby to provide aerial surveillance and support the Tongan Government to gain visibility of the impact on the outer islands, as soon as atmospheric conditions allow.

“The New Zealand High Commission in [the Tongan capital] Nuku’alofa is monitoring the situation closely and is in contact with local authorities.”