New Tonga National Park Excludes Popua Sia Archaeological Site

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Plans to turn former Nuku‘alofa rubbish dump into park muted

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 26, 2016) – An announcement by government yesterday, 25 January, that it would create a new 10 acres Va’epopua National Park around the site of a former Nuku’alofa rubbish dump is yet another controversial decision that government has made during the past weeks.

The 10 acres area that is designated for the new Va’epopua National Park, excludes the 500-600 year old Va’epopua Sia Heulupe archaeological site, the objective of a petition, signed by 700 signatories, which was approved by the Tongan parliament on 16 September 2015, when they pledged to "safeguard and preserve the Popua Sia for future generations and to find another site for proposed housing developments".

The government decision to create the Va’epopua National Park, overlooked the earlier approval by parliament who had voted 16-1 to safeguard the Va’epopua Sia Heulupe and to address the legality of the subdivision of the swamp into 20-poles lots for people to build homes in a marginal low-lying area.

The petition to save the Va’epopua Sia Heulupe, was tabled into parliament by Lord Vaea, and was passed in its third reading in Legislature 16-1. Against was Mateni Tapueluelu, the People's Representative for Tongatapu Constituent No. 4, which includes the area in Popua.

Mateni, however, has since lost his seat when he was found by the Supreme Court late last year to have been ineligible when he stood for election on November 2014.

According to Lord Vaea, the Va’epopua Sia Heulupe was a playground of Tonga’s first king, ‘Aho’eitu where he trapped pigeons.

According to history one of the Tangaloa’s came down from the sky at this site. Tangaloa ‘Eitumatupu’a met a Tongan lady, Va’epopua on the reef and later they had a son, ‘Aho’eitu; his father was a sky-god, and his mother an earthly woman. That was the origin of Tonga’s kingship system.

The Va’epopua area composes mainly of swampy land and because of its historical significance it was not subdivided for settlement until last year. But by August 2015, 100 plots had been distributed to people in the area. It was argued that the proper environmental impact assessment had not been done, and earlier submissions to government about the immense historical importance of the site had been ignored.

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Thank you for all those who have been proactive and visionary in raising their concerns about the failure of the government and the parliamentarians to consider this matter seriously as the Vaepopua Heulupe archaeological site is one significant spot which carries historical, cultural, artistic and archaeological values as part of its many contributions to Tonga and the world. Vaepopua Heulupe archaeological site is one of the few intact remaining significant evidence of the classical age of Tu'itonga dynasty and the Tongan maritime empire. Such a site could uncover lots of cultural and historical resources and information about the development and cultivation of animal husbandry and game artistry in Tonga's past. Furthermore, the potential contribution of Vaepopua archaeological site to Tonga's economic, social, cultural and educational development would be significantly enormous. Please keep on promoting this topic in any way possible to draw public attention to the importance of saving this archaeological site. Thank you once again for you care and good work.

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