Ha’apai backs Ocean Plan at MSP consultations

PANGAI, Ha’apai – October 18, 2018: 10.45am (Enviro News):  Tonga Oceans 7 Marine Spatial Planning team is excited with the general support and feedback from members of the different communities they consulted with in Ha’apai in the past two weeks.

The team was in Ha’apai from October 1 to October 12.

MSP Senior Project Officer Ms Lilieta Takau,  said the team had a busy daily programme with consultation visits.

Visits included a briefing with the Govenor of Ha’apai, Rev Dr Tevita Mohenoa Puloka, government officials in Pangai, tourist operators and members of the different communities in Hihifo, Pangai, Holopeka, Koulo, ‘Uiha, Faleloa, Kauvai Ha’ano, Nomuka, Hafeva, Lotofoa and Fotua.

“It was exciting and we recorded very good turnouts at the different venues and received very good feedback from the different stakeholders,” Ms Takau said.

“One thing we have found out is the fact that people are informed and they have genuine issues that they are raising.

“At the same time there have been some clarifications needed on the different programs like the Special Management Areas (SMAs) which we have been able to offer on the spot.

“All in all the support for the MSP and to have an Ocean Plan is there and we thank all those who have come forward to meet with us, listen to us and also give us their feedbacks.”

Ms Takau said the first round of consultations in Ha’apai is continuing in Vava’u.

She added that the consultations will probably see a second round where draft recommendations by the Tonga Oceans 7 team will be brought back to the people.

The consultation team included consultant Dr Vailala Matoto; the Head of the Biodiversity Unit of the Department of Environment (MEIDECC) Ms Ta’hirih Hokafonu; Ms Halalilika Etika of the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Survey; Ms Lu’isa Fihaki of the Ministry of Tourism; Mr Taufa Fainga’anuku, the Officer in Charge of the Fisheries Department in Ha’apai; Ms Lu’isa Taunga, Officer in Charge of MEIDECC, Ha’apai and Mr Iliesa Tora, the National Communication/Information Officer for the Department of Environment.

The team underwent training in Nuku’alofa earlier in September before they carried out a pilot consultation meeting with the members of the Ha’atafu community.

Other outer island consultations will be held as follows:

  • October 15-29 in Vava’u,
  • October 30 – November 7 in Niuatoputapu,
  • November 14-21 in Niuafo’ou and
  • November 26 – December 1 in Niuatoputapu

Feedback from members of the community will be used by the team to help draft proposals to the Tonga Oceans 7 Technical Working Group that will work on writing up the Ocean Plan for Tonga.

Funds for the consultations is being made available by the MACBIO Project, VEPA, WAITT Institute, Oceans5 and the Marine Protected Area project, which is funded by the Italian Government.

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