News - Oct 17, 2022 Tonga National Officer Profile

Ms. Sulieti Hufanga-OFA

National Officer for PacWastePlus project

Country: Tonga

I worked for the Department of Environment / MEIDECC for almost seven (7) years under the Waste Management and Pollution Control Division as a Conservation / Waste Officer. My core roles were to plan, prepare and implement communication and awareness programs on Waste Management & Pollution Control, enforce the Hazardous waste & chemical act, Waste management act, and Environment management (Litter & Waste Control regulation), provide assistance to the head of the division and international consultants and implement of international funded projects. In August 2021, I moved to Waste Authority Limited which is a public enterprise, and worked as a project officer doing similar roles as conservation/waste officer but with additional roles as writing project proposals and concept notes, liaising with WAL donor partnership in providing assistances to WAL through equipment including virtual training, improving data collection system, and promoting recycling initiatives in Tonga. Because of my interest in the field of waste management, I’ve worked for the regulatory agency which is the government, and for the waste collection operating authority a public enterprise in Tonga.

I was interested in this role, as Project Officer for PacWastePlus Project on Asbestos Abatement in Tonga mainly because I was part of developing the project focus for Tonga and I had a glimpse of the PWP project activities. While I was with the Department of Environment under the Waste Management and Pollution Control Division, I developed the National, Education and Awareness Plans for the PWP Asbestos abatement for Tonga. Also, I had experience and knowledge of the process of the past asbestos removal activities in ACM buildings in Tonga, from asbestos facilities to asbestos removal contractors and involving key stakeholders.

Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) has a high risk to human health and a threat to the environment, therefore the PWP Project on Asbestos Abatement in Tonga is the perfect opportunity to develop an asbestos ban regulation, asbestos code of practice for asbestos management/handling and conduct education and awareness activities to inform public, communities and individuals the existence of ACM in Tonga and the risks on human health and the environment, and to take safety measures from the professionals managing authorities.

As the national project officer for PacWastePlus project on Asbestos abatement in Tonga, I will assist in implementing project tasks/activities provided by the PWP project team. I will also assist the Department of Environment/MEIDECC and key stakeholders through the process of developing a draft asbestos ban regulation to control incoming ACM at the borders, and the Asbestos Code of Practice to guide the safe handling and disposal of asbestos waste at the landfill. What I will do in order to keep the project moving and implementing actions is to get the key stakeholders on board with this project implementation through one-to-one consultations, public and community meetings & awareness programs, social media outlets program (Tv Prog, Radio Talkback shows, Facebook post, department/ministry website news) and also through exhibition events and education materials such as posters, flyers, pull up banners, SPREP/PWP factsheets, articles, and text messages. The more people are aware and informed of the asbestos abatement project, and then choose the right target audience, the precise messages, and effective method of delivering the education and awareness activities, the more responsive the public, communities and key stakeholders, and high-level authorities towards implementing of the project.

Waste is everybody’s responsibility, and Tonga needs Champions on the ground to improve Waste Management through the enforcement of appropriate regulations & acts education, and awareness programs, implementation of waste activities, and simply educating everyone on how to properly manage waste starting from home. Waste management is important because if we do not properly manage our waste on land it will end up in the ocean polluting our ocean and marine life which most of our people depend on for their livelihood and food security. If we do not manage our waste properly, it will pollute the environment, affect our human health, and also contaminate our water resources.  Tonga is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change however, it is important to educate people on disaster waste including ACM, and how to take safety measures. The result I would like to see in Tonga and after implementing project activities is for Tonga to be responsible for their own waste in order to improve waste management at source, practice recycling initiatives because not all used items/goods are rubbish such as plastics, but waste can convert into another resource, be responsive to guidelines, instructions, precautionary actions provided by the Department of Environment and key stakeholders. And to implement appropriate regulations & acts, the Asbestos code of practice, and to have a waste management strategy in place to improve waste management in Tonga.