Nuku’alofa – February 24, 2020: 10.20am (Enviro News): Local partnerships will help in ensuring that Tonga is able to manage invasive species that are slowly affecting the environment here and changing natural resources.
This was the critical message that partners expressed during the two day Inception Workshop for the GEF6 Regional Invasive Program and the stakeholders’ meeting held in Nuku’alofa on February 20-21.
ILAMS Project Manager Taniela Hoponoa made the comments a few times during the two day meetings, expressing his concern that all stakeholders need to be part of the process for it to be successful.
“We are thankful to the Ministry of Environment (MEIDECC) and SPREP for their foresightedness and bringing this project to Tonga. We need to make that work at the national level and it is critical that there are partnerships with everyone.”
Invasive Project Manager here at the Department of Environment Viliami Hakaumotu said the formation of a Technical Committee to spearhead the program here in Tonga will ensure that partnership is secured.
“We will be working with everyone,” he said.
“That is critical and we thank the concerns from the partners.”
Participants were able to learn a lot more about the different programs now being implemented under the project in the Region.
Tonga’s focus will be on the ‘War on Weeds’.
Facilitators at the meetings included the Regional Project Invasive Species Advisor, who is based at SPREP, Mr David Moverley, Ms Lynley Hayes from Land Care Research, New Zealand and Mr Michael Day from Australia.
They were able to help local participants understand more about the project and what is being planned for Tonga.
In explaining the “Natural Enemies, National Solution” program Ms Hayes said this was a sustainable way to ensure that the environment is sustained while the ‘enemies’ are managed.
In opening the inception workshop in February 20, Director of Environment Mrs Atelaite Lupe Matoto said the project was important for Tonga.
“The GEF6 Regional Invasive Program is a five-year initiative funded by GEF, executed by SPREP, and coordinated by the Ministry of MEIDECC in Partnership with Land Care Research,” she said.
“It aims at “Strengthening national and regional capacities to reduce the impact of Invasive Alien Species on globally significant biodiversity in the Pacific”. To achieve this aim, the GEF6 Regional Invasive Program will focus on reducing threats from Invasive Alien Species to terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity in the Pacific by developing and implementing comprehensive national and regional IAS management frameworks.
“Tonga has been fortunate to be included in this programme and is looking forward to working in collaboration with many of you, to reduce the impacts and attempt to eradicate invasive alien species found on our islands.”
Mrs Matoto thanked the presence of Mr Hoponoa, who is also a former Deputy Director of Agriculture, Mr Viliami Kami, the Director of Quarantine and representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Forestry.
“Your presence here says it all, that you have a devolved interest in Invasive Species and Weeds Control and I thank you all for taking the time off your busy schedules to participate in this workshop,” Mrs Matoto added.
SPREP’s Mr Moverley said Tonga is part of the project, following initial surveys and field works.
A team was in Vava’u earlier in the week doing scoping work on invasive weeds that needed to be controlled.
“That scoping visit identified some of the weeds that we will need to manage and control, which is a great start,” Mr Moverley added.
LDS Stake President, Mr. Siosiua Latu, blessed the opening workshop with a prayer.