Habitat and TIST join forces to help Tonga rebuild after disaster

Aug 10, 2022

As part of Habitat for Humanity New Zealand’s disaster response efforts in Tonga, it has formed a partnership with the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (TIST) to deliver a programme of training which will enhance local community knowledge in Build Back Safer (BBS) methods.

In conjunction with TIST, Habitat is providing second year carpentry students with practical experience to put their training into action to help build up to 12 new homes for vulnerable families affected by the tsunami earlier this year. The two organisations will also work together to find ways BBS training can be delivered to community participants.

“Our approach is always to understand the needs of the community first and work with local partners to develop a plan for what needs to be done,” says Alan Thorp, Group Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand.

“The partnership we’ve announced with TIST is perfect in this regard. Habitat brings our community based experience and programmes to the partnership.”

“We are deeply heartened to be able to work with Habitat to provide additional value to our students, and our curriculum” says Dr Tangikina Moimoi Steen, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Education and Training.

“By working with Habitat, we will have a multi-pronged approach which will encompass education and training, provide on-site practical application of these skills in the field to support some of our most vulnerable communities.” says Dr Steen.


Habitat for Humanity New Zealand Group CEO Alan Thorp (centre) with Director of Education Ponepate Taunasila (left of Alan), and Principal of TIST Talanoa Hafoka (second to right), TIST tutors and students, Habitat NZ team members Lou Maea (Technical Manager, front left), Kate Holgate (Sector and Societal Manager, second to front right), and In-Country Consultant Project Manager Katrina Ma’Fatiaki (front right).


Habitat will provide additional technical support and project management to TIST as part of this partnership. It will provide a BBS refresher course to the students and deliver a “Train the Trainer” module to enable tutors to teach others in BBS skills going forward, and for students to be able take these skills back to their communities too.

As part of the agreement with TIST, about 20 year-two carpentry students will have hands-on experience of building up to 12 new homes. The intention is to in build on Ha’apai and Tongatapu.

TIST will also contribute to ongoing Habitat research on making better use of local materials to rebuild after a disaster as a way on strengthening a community’s ability to respond more quickly and in a more cost effective way.

BBS is a programme used by Habitat internationally to ensure community members gain an understanding of building and WASH (Water and Sanitation and Hygiene) skills.  This can include skills such as roof strapping, for example.

Habitat has worked in the Pacific for almost 30 years, with a focus on shelter and housing. It has completed more than 800 home repairs across the nation of Tonga since 2016 and most recently completed housing repair work in Tonga on the island of ‘Eua in July 2021.