We need to talk about Tonga

It is thankful that not more lives have been lost and that NZ has already donated $3m.

But we can’t be under any illusions that the death toll may rise sharply or that vast money will be required.

The true scale of the devastation isn’t quantifiable yet but the magnitude of what lies ahead can’t be dismissed.

This has been a once in a thousand year eruption and the science tells us that these can continue for months so this disruption may only be starting.

The immediate threat is fresh water and contamination of the entire agricultural industry.

The downstream effects of acid rain and ash pollution will be enormous and stretching.

We need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge this is going to be an enormous task and we are going to have to view far larger donations and ongoing support.

I often argue that the climate crisis will demand of us a far greater expenditure on the military – this civil defence emergency requiring our military is the exact point I’m making.

We are going to have to accept a far larger aid cost to our Tongan brothers and sisters and we need to start by offering all Tongan overstayers immediate amnesty in NZ and stop all immigration uplifts to Tonga.

This is family and we have an obligation to step up to help them from this incredible natural disaster.

I don’t think we have a true picture of the damage yet.

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