“Fiji Link to assist Lulutai in providing local service as Government works on safety”

30 January 2023

Nuku’alofa – Fiji Airways, through its Pacific Link service, will assist Lulutai Airways in providing service to the outer island of Vava’u from today until Wednesday this week, as Government continues to work on ensuring public safety.

The Honourable Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku confirmed this in a press conference with members of the local media here at the St George Building in Nuku’alofa this morning.

This follows the withdrawal of the domestic airline’s 34 seat Saab 340 aircraft for urgent repairs.

“Government is focused on providing safe services for all passengers who choose to fly with Lulutai and has decided to pull the aircraft off service so that repairs and maintenance work can be done urgently,” Hon Hu’akavameiliku said.

“That will take three to four months at least. In the meantime we are looking at all options available and to meet urgent needs we have worked with Pacific Link to provide the service that is needed between Vava’u and Tongatapu, with three flights this week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Hon Hu’akavameiliku said Government was also looking at the option of stepping back and partnering with a private company to manage the operations of Lulutai.

Ha’apai Tour

The Hon Prime Minister said last week’s tour of the Ha’apai Islands was a success and thanked the Governor Dr Pita Faiva Taufatofua and all Government workers on the island for the work they have been doing in the past years.

“That trip allowed us to complete the official installation of the Governor of Ha’apai and we were able to meet with all civil servants, Town Officers and District Officers to get first-hand information on the work being done on the ground,” he said.

He stated there were requests for boats, solar lights and plough/tractors that would be channeled to the various Nobles and Peoples’ Representatives.

The trip also allowed the Hon Prime Minister to see first-hand the reconstruction work being done on the islands of Tungua, Fonoifua and Nomuka.

He also called on people of the islands who believe they should be part of the reconstruction program to liase directly with the Minister of Infrastructure Hon. Sevinitini Toumo’ua and his team.

The Hon Hu’akavameiliku also thanked the President of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Reverend Dr. Tevita Koloa’ia Havea for joining him and Cabinet Ministers on the trip.

Health update

The Minister of Health, Hon Dr Saia Piukala, said reconstruction of the Nomuka Health Centre was critical for the health service on the island.

The Centre and the island’s Police Station were damaged during the January 15, 2022 Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai volcano and tsunami.

On the status of the COVID-19 in Tonga, the Hon Dr Piukala said mild cases were reported in the last two weeks and the only variants currently been reported here are the BA2 and BA5.

“We can confirm that the XBB1.5 variant has not arrived in Tonga and the only ones we have are the BA2 and BA5 variants,” Hon Dr Piukala stated.

“There are no serious cases and the COVID-19 status remains the same for Tonga with no changes.”

Form 6 exam results

The Hon Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Education and Training, said Form 6 examination results will be sent to schools today.

But he stated there is concern with the results of the Mathematics and Science papers, with the Ministry of Education identifying these as critical areas that will need improvements on.

He stated both Maths and Science are important subjects.

Otuanga’ofa returns

The MV ‘Otuanga’ofa will return to Tonga from New Zealand about the second week of February, following mechanical services there.

The vessel should be serving Tonga again soon after having gone for maintenance and repairs.

Reconstruction program

The Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. Toumo’ua said the reconstruction program is continuing in Ha’apai and ‘Eua.

There are supplies that are being shipped to the Ha’apai islands this week.

“We are working with all construction companies involved to ensure that reconstruction is on time so that those affected can move into their new homes,” he added.

Sympathy for Aucklanders

Meanwhile, the Hon Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku said Tonga stands with the people of Auckland who were affected by the flash flooding over the weekend.

“We stand with them in our prayers,” he said.

At least four people have died since the flash floods hit the greater Auckland area from Thursday last week.

“We send our condolences to families who lost loved ones during the flash floods,” Hon Hu’akavameiliku added.