Busy months ahead for NZ Tonga Business Council

The New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC) will be busy with several major activities planned over the upcoming months.

Members of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council

Pacific Periscope spoke with NZTBC Chairman Sione Taufa after the May Annual General Meeting (AGM) to discuss their upcoming calendar. Mr Taufa leads a committee of co-Vice Chairs Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, Butch Riechelmann, Treasurer Sam Tangitau. Committee members include, Joe Fuavao, Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand, Craig Strong, CEO, Pacific Cooperation Foundation, Georgina Roberts, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bhaskar Sharma, Alrite Steel, Shazad Ibnul from Powersmart (Vector subsidiary), Aleki Taumoepeau, NIWA, Sefita Hao’uli, Stafford Aho, Scott James, Charlotte Kelly and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce as the secretariat.

PTI NZ is a founding board member of NZTBC and has worked closely with them on various projects and activities.

NZTBC is currently securing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Tongan Government.  They are keen to solidify their ongoing relationship with the Government and working with partner Edgar Cocker, CEO of the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour (MCCTIL), the guest speaker at the AGM.

NZTBC is also planning an After-5 event in July in association with NIWA regarding fisheries and moving away from tuna to other sustainable species.

Their biggest undertaking this year will be a NZTBC Trade Mission around the last week of August, the details are yet to be confirmed. Working with strategic partners, the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga and Minister Edgar Cocker the mission’ focus will not only be on Rebuilding following Cyclone Gita. The cyclone was reported to be the worst in 60 years tearing through the islands with winds up to 230km/h, costing an estimated$365 million in damage. The islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua bore the brunt of the cyclone destroying homes, stripping buildings, uprooting vegetation and crops causing widespread flooding. The Trade Mission should provide a significant boost to an economy struggling to get back on its feet.

Rebuilding is the focus but its about “doing it better, building it better” Mr Taufa said. They will be across sectors from agriculture to renewable energies such as solar and wind, power drawing together resources from private public partnerships. Expressions of Interest will be sent out soon through the NZTBC website.

There is also a proposal from the community for council to become part of a new national consortium of Tongan organisations aimed at providing a cohesive and coordinated approach to weather events and other emergencies for Tongans in New Zealand and at home in Tonga. The consortium arose after the “scattered response” to the cyclone relief efforts Mr Taufa said. It will provide a single umbrella for groups to work under in a consolidated approach. The initiative is currently being discussed by the Council.

NZTBC partners with the Tonga Chamber of Commerce to support private sector businesses.

Their aim is to add to higher level discussions on the different ways they can assist. Mr Taufa said the Tonga Bank has provided soft loans to help people repair their cyclone damaged homes. Tariffs on imported goods used for reconstruction purposes have a three-month break. In addition, the council also helps Tongan exporters understand New Zealand’s strict biosecurity requirements and works to lobby NZ’s government on important issues facing the business community.

As an NZTBC Board member, PTI NZ is also playing its part in contributing to the Tongan cyclone relief effort. PTI NZ organised a cargo load of roofing iron in association with the Otago University Alumni Association to be shipped to Tonga for small business and others affected.

For more information contact: Joe Fuavao, Pacific Trade Invest Trade Development Manager on joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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