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NZ Army helps repair community halls and water tanks in Tonga

New Zealand Army personnel have pitched in with their Tongan counterparts to help restore community buildings and other structures as the country continues to recover from last year’s volcanic eruption and tsunami.

24 May, 2023

During adverse weather events shelter is becoming an increasing need in Tonga and recently personnel from 2nd Engineer Regiment were welcomed as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight to help address that need.

The exercise is an annual Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) series of activities conducted in the South Pacific, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Seventeen 2nd Engineer Regiment personnel, along with five support personnel, worked alongside local soldiers from His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) to complete construction and maintenance tasks around the main island of Tongatapu, where ash still clogs some guttering, roofs and pipes.

Captain Dan Blake said they worked on three community halls; all received new toilets, hand basins and doors while two halls were fitted with wooden covers over the windows to protect the glass during storms.

Carpenters constructed partition walls and lockable storage boxes to provide families with a secure and private area to shelter in. 

At Ahau Community Hall, the veranda roof was replaced, spouting added and fans and light installed.

Captain Blake said they also installed three rain water tanks and a pump was placed to distribute the water to three taps, so the community has clean drinking water.


A man wearing a high visibility t-shirt, black shorts, hat and boots installs wooden protective slats on a window of a community hall.

New Zealand Defence Force personnel from 2nd Engineer Regiment installed wooden protective slats on windows on community halls around Tonga as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight

A man wearing a high visibility t-shirt and black sunglasses drills a bracket into where spouting will be installed on the exterior of a building.

Two community halls had new spouting installed, which helps feed rainwater tanks


At Ha’atafu Community Hall the spouting was redone, interior and exterior lighting replaced and an old meter board removed and replaced.

A concrete water tank was demolished and two new rain water tanks installed, also with a pump to supply three community taps.

Captain Blake said they learned that some of the less mobile residents of Ha’atafu could not access the toilet block out the back of the building. 

“We excavated and then cleared a path before laying a concrete slab. Lights were also installed outside the hall and this has made the toilet block accessible to all members of the community.”

Working alongside the HMAF personnel had been awesome as they participated in physical training together, attended social events, as well as supporting the HMAF rugby team during two of their matches, he said.

“We welcome working with more of our Pacific neighbours on future exercises.”

This is the second Tropic Twilight to take place in the past 12 months, with an Exercise Tropic Twilight held in Niue last July, involving New Zealand Army engineers and Royal New Zealand Navy hydrographers.