A Spectacular Commissioning of the Vava’u Emergency Co-ordination Centre (VECC)

His and Her Majesty at the Commissioning of the Vava’u Emergency Coordination Center, with the orators

The meticulous arrangements for the Commissioning of the Vava’u Emergency Co-ordination Centre (VECC) was in place for the arrival of His and Her Majesty, King Tupou VI and The Queen, Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho on Wednesday, 17 March 2021. The Guests of Honour marveled in appreciation on a clear, fine, beautiful morning in the changed landscape of Neiafu.

 

 

His Majesty ready to unveil the plaque of the new Vava’u Emergency Coordination Center to officially open

 

 

 

 

 

His Majesty revealing the plaque to official open the Vava’u Emergency Coordination Centre

 

 

 

 

The ngatu (tapa cloth) already laid on the ground, reflecting our strong tradition, in anticipation of our Royal Family attending.

His Majesty entering the Vava’u Emergency Coordination Centre to officially open

The Mailefihi & Siu’ilikutapu College Brass Band announced the arrival of His and Her Majesty to officially commence the commissioning, by playing the National anthem, “God and country are my inheritance”. “Ko e ‘Otua mo Tonga ko hoku tofi’a”.

Guests included Cabinet Ministers, diplomatic corps, government officials, church leaders and Vava’u’s communities including the Prime Minister. The media were out in force to capture and share with the broader Tongan public, all the morning’s events with full attention on His and Her Majesty.

 

Diplomatic community from Japan, United Kingdom, Aotearoa and Australia in attendance

Guests were eager to witness and be a part of this spectacular commissioning ceremony in Vava’u. It was a privilege for those to attend, which many may not have recognised. The media captured the occasion for those in Tongatapu, Ha’apai, ‘Eua and Niua Ongo and the Tongan diaspora to also be a witness to.

The name “Vava’u Emergency Co-ordination Centre” (VECC) was bestowed by His Majesty King Tupou VI, to highlight one of the key purposes of the Centre.

The Centre is where the coordination of a response occurs, in the event of a disaster. The Centre will be the hub of disaster risk reduction systems in Vava’u. These aim to provide timely and accurate information to communities to minimise damage and destruction, in the event of a disaster. The Centre will also coordinate quick effective responses after the event.

MEIDECC Vava’u staff in front of their new office building – the new VECC

     

MEIDECC Vava’u staff members in front the newly planted “Heilala ko Mateuteu” and in the new VECC

The Centre is managed by MEIDECC’s Officer In Charge (OIC), Ms. Lucy Fa’anunu with nineteen (19) current incumbents, from the seven Departments.

It was an absolute honour to also have Her Majesty, The Queen present as it was her first public appearance since returning to Tonga, from NZ, since the pandemic started. Her Majesty, The Queen delightfully planted “Heilala ko Mateuteu” the name she bestowed on the plant to commemorate the occasion, in the front of the VECC.

Her Majesty planting the “Heilala ko Mateuteu”

Mateuteu” means readiness or preparedness to reflect the work of the MEIDECC, Vava’u team.

The Pacific Resilience Program in Tonga’s (PREP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Training, Ministry of Finance and Planning, and the Ministry of Infrastructure supported the build of the VECC to also serve as a back-up facility to the warning and emergency operations centres in Tongatapu.

In the event of a failure of the Fua’amotu Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre or the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), the VECC now has the capability to take the lead and issue warnings and initiate response activities across Tonga in the event of a disaster.

Much gratitude is therefore owed to the donors who co-funded the Centre, the Government of Japan, the World Bank, Global Environment Facility and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

The ceremony also consisted of:

  • a devotion and blessing of the VECC by the Honorary Chair of the Free Wesleyan Church (FWC) Minister, Reverend Tu’ipulotu Faletau,
  • speeches from the PM and donors, World Bank and His Excellency the Ambassador of Japan,
  • a tour of the newly commissioned Centre by His and Her Majesty, with the naming of the unveiling of the plaque and planting of the “Heilala ko Mateuteu” and distinguished guests
  • beautiful and entertaining traditional dances performed by MEIDECC staff, family, friends and local communities with:
    • a dazzling tau’olunga (solo dance) to the legendary song composed by the Late Queen Salote III, “Ko e Hala kuo Papa”, Her Majesty the Queen was also witnessed joyfully singing along, and
    • a final performance of ma’ulu’ulu (seated group dance) to a ta’anga (composed song) specifically for this occasion lead by the Minister of MEIDECC with Cabinet Ministers joining the dancing, with a parade of fakapale (gifts of appreciation for the dancers) from onlookers to show their enjoyment and appreciation.

His and Her Majesty offered cheerful smiles as they departed. MEIDECC hope they enjoyed the Commissioning event, the first opening in Vava’u, since the pandemic.

MEIDECC Vava’u staff from the Tonga Meteorological Services Department in the new offices

The efforts of the MEIDECC Vava’u team, in particular, ensured the auspicious occasion was a success, finishing off weeks of hard work that showcased our culture and our people’s efforts, their dedication in service to Tonga.

On the morning of Tuesday 16 March 2021, MEIDECC staff from Vava’u and Nuku’alofa, led by the Honorable Minister and CEO and accompanied by the PM and members of Cabinet attended a ha’unga at the Palace in Vava’u. It was a short and small intimate event to express the Ministry’s gratitude to the Royal family for their support in participating in the Commissioning of the new Vava’u Emergency Coordination Centre.

By Lucy Fa’anunu, Officer in charge, MEIDECC Vava’u