DG Sheppard's Speech to the PACC Launch of a New Water System for Hihifo District, Tonga
• Reverend Dr 'Ahio, President of the Free Wesleyan Church and Royal Chaplin
• Lord Tu'ivakano, Prime Minister of Tonga
• Lord Ma'afu the Minister of Lands, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources
• Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament
• His Excellency, Mr Brett Aldam, Australian High Commission to Tonga
• His Excellency, Mr Mark Talbot, New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga
• His Excellency, Dr KazuchikaHamuro, Ambassador of Japan to Tonga
• His Excellency, Mr Huang Huanguang, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Tonga
• Members of the Diplomatic Corps
• The donor community in Tonga
• The representative of UNDP
• CEOs of Government Ministries and Non-Government Organisations, and
• The people of Hihifo
It is a great privilege to be here and to deliver this speech today on the occasion of handing over this water system to the Government of Tonga and the people of Hihifo.
This project has been delivered through PACC - the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change.
This innovative programme in 14 Pacific countries is a real and genuine partnership project between SPREP, UNDP, the Government of Australia and the Government of Pacific countries.
The world's leading body on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC - released a major report on Monday this week reinforcing the major impacts of climate change.
The report noted impacts will be particularly severe for the small island states of the Pacific - that our countries are on the "front line" in dealing with climate change.
The IPCC report highlighted the need for practical adaptation strategiesto increase resilience and reduce the vulnerability of communities against the impacts of climate change.
PACC is leading the way in developing practical adaptation projects, based on country priorities, and comprehensive site assessments and economic analysis.
The Government of Tonga selected this project in the Hihifo District to strengthen the capacity to supply and store water and to better able to manage the demand and use of water.
A wise Pacific leader once said: "if you want to go fast you go alone; if you want to go far you go together".
On the Hihifo project, the Governments of Tonga, of Australia, SPREP and UNDP have "all gone together to go far" and we can clearly see the results today.
I am happy to note that Tonga has been leading the way on PACC and has been one of the first of the 14 Pacific Island PACC countries to have completed their practical adaptation strategies.
A focus on water for this project in Hihifo is particularly important given previous challenges with poor and unreliable water supply, and the loss of water due to limited infrastructure and awareness of water conservation and management.
As a result, the Tonga PACC project has undertaken a number of measures to strengthen water supply, including drilling bore holes and installing new water tanks, pumps and pipelines.
Importantly, these improvements have been linked with increasing community awareness of the need for water conservation and also strengthening of the Tonga National Water Policy. I understand a National Water Bill is currently under consideration and SPREP would like to commend and congratulate the Government of Tonga on these efforts.
The results we see today are attributed to the financial support provided by GEF, the Global Environment Facility and the Government of Australia. Technical support and due diligence were provided by UNDP and SPREP.
However, I believe the real credit lies with Lord Ma'afu and his staff from the Ministry of Lands, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources who - together with the people of Hihifo - have made things happen on the ground.
Another major achievement of PACC in Tonga is the "Coastal Adaptation for the Hihifo Coastal Area" project, where a feasibility study and environmental impact assessment have been completed. This innovative projectwill protect coastal vegetation, thus promoting a 'Green Buffer' zone. This will combat wave inundation and protect existing settlements and the Hihifo coastal road.
The international community, through the IPCC, has called this week for practical action to address climate change. What we are seeing here today in Hihifo is the practical and innovative response of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Tonga. Countries around the world can - and must - learn from your example.
In closing, SPREP would like to sincerely thank GEF, UNDP, the Government of Australia, and, most importantly, the Government of Tonga and the people of Hihifo for your partnership and outstanding work.
Thank you, most sincerely.