NZ will review aid to Tonga, says PM

By Audrey Young

New Zealand is set to review the $10 million in aid it is giving to Tonga this year, after rioters burned down 70 per cent of Nuku'alofa's CBD, Prime Minister Helen Clark said last night.

She has also offered to supply the kingdom with any specialists it might want in the future to get "political dialogue" going.

Helen Clark rang Tongan Prime minister Feleti Sevele yesterday from Hanoi where she at the Apec summit.

New Zealand troops, at the request of the Tongan Government, yesterday secured the airport and flights were due to resume tomorrow, she said.

Mr Seveli was still quite shocked by the events of last Thursday which left eight people dead.

The discussed whether there would be enough capacity in the private sector to rebuild the central business district and that was still being worked through.

"Clearly there is going to have to be from somewhere a considerable amount of reinvestment back into getting that infrastructure repaired," she said.

"I think we are going to have to get some advice from NZ Aid on where this leaves Tonga and if there is anything more we should be doing."

She offered to provide Tonga with people who had worked on Pacific constitutions and in mediation.

Mr Sevele's feeling was that things needed to "go quiet" for a little longer yet but took the offer on board.

The situation in Tonga was unique, she said when asked if Pacific states were too small to be sustainable.

"Tonga is the only place in the Pacific that has had in effect a feudal power with all the power to appoint the Government without a proper representative democracy.

"That isn't tenable in the 21st century. Hasn't been tenable for some time."

That was what the public service strike last year was about.

"A way forward has to be found."

The Pacific Plan developed under New Zealand's chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum had tried to address those issues because small economies in the Pacific faced being even more marginalised in the 21st century.

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