Tonga MET eyes reform to better service stakeholders

Tonga MET Director Ofa Fa’anunu presenting Tonga’s country report at the 5th PMC in Apia on Wednesday. Photo: SPREP

Apia, Samoa – August 8, 2019: 1.55pm (Enviro News/MEIDECC): The Tonga Meteorological Department recognizes the need for more specialized and quality meteorological information at a time where weather and climate related hazards are at a record high.

And to this end the department has proposed a structural reform to help them meet the service demands from stakeholders better.

The President of the World Meteorology Organisation Region 5 and Director of Meteorology Ofa Fa’anunu made the comments while presenting the “TONGA METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE COUNTRY REPORT – Reporting on National Priority Actions of the Pacific Islands Meteorological Strategy (PIMS) 2017-2026” at the 5th Pacific Meteorological Council meeting, which got underway here in Apia, Samoa yesterday morning.

The meeting is being held at the TATTE Conference Centre.

“Due to the rapid growth of Tonga’s Meteorology Department and the need for more specialized and quality meteorological information in a time where weather and climate related hazards are at a record high there is a real need to reform organizational structure for the Meteorology department under the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Communications and Climate Change (MEIDECC),” Mr Fa’anunu said. 

Reform needs

These reforms are necessary for the Meteorology Department to perform its functions under the Meteorology Act of 2017 as well as implement multi-million dollar projects in multi-hazard early warning systems.

It is als timely with the organizational reform currently happening with the WMO.

Mr Fa’anunu said this is necessary to improve efficiency (more dynamic decision making) to improve resource use and funding mechanisms and for better service development.

The reform is aimed to meet the increased scope of activities expected of the MET Service to support resilient development priorities of Government in response to weather and climate, which has more emphasis on user focused services and better use of in-house resources.

“Organizational restructuring is needed to have the capacity to deal with the large number of projects that the Met Service is engaged with and special consideration of customer needs for improved quality of services,” he said.

The requirement to use the science, (turning science into services) and carry out research on specific areas of interest for development that will strengthen services and the need for upgrades to systems (e.g. Automatic Weather Stations) and communications to meet capacity needs of the Met Service are also two key areas.

“Structural reform is required to establish the career paths that will facilitate and enhance the growth of the MET Office. There is also a need to upgrade the MET Officer In Charge (OIC) positions in all the outer islands to reflect the functions of National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) that are carried out by the MET OIC in those islands, particularly for ‘Eua and the Niuas,” Mr Fa’anunu said. 

Meeting SDGs

Mr Fa’anunu said Tonga MET focuses on providing accurate, timely and reliable weather forecast and warnings, marine/ocean weather forecasts and warnings, weather observations, climate data and predictions and coastal maritime information communicated to stakeholders.

The service also contributes to three out of the seven TSDF National Outcomes which connects ultimately to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

This includes:

• A more inclusive, sustainable and responsive good-governance with law and order

• A more inclusive, sustainable and successful provision and maintenance of infrastructure and technology

• A more inclusive, sustainable and effective land administration, environment management, and resilience to climate and risk

Future needs

Mr Fa’anunu also highlighted some of the future needs that the Meteorology Department has identified to help improve the National Meteorological Services.

This includes the need to establish/recruit more meteorologists to the forecasting section so that Tonga is able to provide its own forecasting services to Aviation, which is still done in Fiji.

Other areas identified include the development of Marine forecast and services, establishment and encouragement research capacity development, establish Meteorology regulations for QMS, Cost Recovery, and Qualifications of personnel, improve and enhance Severe Weather and Tropical Cyclone Warnings/Trainings, improve Earthquake and Tsunami Standard Operating Procedures and develop and better co-ordinate hydrological services.

Government support was also commended, with Mr Fa’anunu highlighting the increased budget allocations and funding.

He also revealed that Tonga MET is serious about gender balance, with special attention now on female officers who can be recruited into the service.

Mr Fa’aunu is leading Team Tonga at the 5th Pacific Meteorological Council (PMC) meeting and  also several other key important Pre-PMC events. These events includes :

  • IMPACT  Regional Workshop on IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC)
  • Next Generation of Climate Change Projections for the Pacific & PIETR Panel Meeting
  • Women Leadership in Meteorology & Hydrology Workshop
  • Mana Class Communication Training for Met Directors not attending Women Leadership in Meteorology & Hydrology Workshop
  • Mana Class Communication Training for Participants to the Women Leadership in Meteorology
  • 3rd Meeting of the CREWS Pacific SIDS Project Steering Committee

He is also attending the meeting as the new President of World Meteorological Organization Regional Association V (WMO RAV), which looks after the Asia/Pacific region.

He is backed by Director Geology Taniela Kula, Chief Meteorologist Laitia Fifita, Senior Forecaster Selu Finaulahi and Assistant Geologist Folauhola Latuila.

The meeting proper ends tomorrow (09th  August, 2019) here in Apia.

Note: Iliesa Tora is part of the SPREP Pacific Media team covering the 5th Pacific Meteorological Council meeting here in Apia, Samoa. His trip has been funded by the PMC/World Meteorology/SPREP.

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