By Maddisyn Jeffares
A collective of Hawke's Bay building supply companies are coming together to help Tongans whose homes have been destroyed build temporary shelter.
Following the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga, the companies are fast putting together a shipping container of building supplies to send to the island of Atatā.
Spearheading the response is BBI wood products and Ecko Fastening Systems director Brendan O'Sullivan.
He said, "like many, we have been really concerned about the situation in Tonga as we have close friends and employees from this great little country".
Tongans play a really important part in contributing to New Zealand's communities and the RSE workers in particular to Hawke's Bay's horticultural industry, O'Sullivan said.
Pastor Unaloto Lolohea, a New Zealand resident of Tongan heritage working at BBI, was well connected with community.
"He told me about the RSE workers and their situation, identifying that they would require special help," O'Sullivan said.
Atata was one of two Islands to be completely devastated by the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano, which sent a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean.
The tsunami that followed the already destructive eruption was reported to have wiped out all the homes on the island.
"We wanted to do something to help given their link to working in our region," O'Sullivan said.
The Tumu Group and Kiwi Lumber are contributing timber, BBI wood products is supplying plywood and Ecko Fastening Systems will provide fasteners, nails and Metalcraft roofing iron.
While water and food was crucial, there will be a need for shelter, he said.
The collective was still looking at some other companies and products to add more to the container.
O'Sullivan said, being involved in the building supplies industry himself, it has been a really challenging time for supply.
"But I thought if we could get at least a container of building materials together it would go a long way to help."
Over the next two weeks, supplies will be arriving at the BBI Hastings yard, where they will be split into individual temporary shelter packs.
There will be 11 shelter packs for the families of the Atatā RSE workers as well as two for Una's relatives as they live on coastal land affected on the main island of Tonga.
Whatever the collective can do beyond that is a bonus and the supplies would be allocated based on need.
The next challenge is the logistics in getting the container to Tonga, making sure the sea level and the ports are safe for ships to enter and unload.
O'Sullivan believes a lot more can be done for the Tongan people by the Hawke's Bay region with the right support.
"I have been in discussion with our neighbouring local Kraft, Heinz and Watties business and they are willing to make significant contributions of canned food which can support a much wider population.
To send the containers over they need to work on reducing costs of shipping which had been indicated at $9000 a container.
"We are working on this and some good options to reduce this especially for the initial food being supplied with contacts in Auckland," O'Sullivan said.
"There is a much greater need, but this is a good start to helping."