Graduate and AUT help Tongan recovery

18 Feb, 2022
Graduate and AUT help Tongan recovery
AUT equipment arrives to Tonga aboard a New Zealand Defence Force plane. Supplied: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

An AUT engineering graduate living in Tonga reached out to AUT staff to help reconnect vital communications following the devastating volcanic eruption.

On 15 January 2022 the Pacific nation of Tonga experienced a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami that saw widespread disruption as well as damage and destruction to much of the country’s infrastructure including a vital submarine communications cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world.

The lack of communication as a result of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption, left Tongans in New Zealand as well as the wider public anxious and worried with many seeking ways to help.

AUT alumnus Stan Ahio, who works as a Senior Telecom Engineer at the Tonga Department of Communications, wrote to the AUT Scholarships Office on January 25 requesting the loan of a spectrum analyser to assist his team in reconnecting internet access.

AUT staff, Deputy Head of the School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, Professor Tek Tjing Lie, Senior Lecturers in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Jeff Kilby, Craig Baguley and Engineering Technical Coordinator, Stephen Hartley responded hastily to the request.

Hartley quickly returned to campus from a long-weekend trip to test the spectrum analyser equipment and delivered it to the Whenuapai airbase to be loaded onto a New Zealand Defence Force flight bound for Tonga.

‘Alifeleti Tu’ihalamaka, Director at the Tonga Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) says the equipment given by AUT played a vital role in restoring satellite internet for the Government.

“This spectrum analyser was very much needed to quickly locate intended satellite carrier, offering a connection to allow internet access for essential Government agencies,” says Tu’ihalamaka.

“On behalf of MEIDECC we express our gratitude for the generosity shown by AUT in response to our request through graduates and Senior Engineers Stan Ahio and Lutoviko Falemaka, to aid in their efforts to restore satellite internet connectivity in Tonga.”

Equipment sent over by AUT included a spectrum analyser.

Stan Ahio completed his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 2019.

Sacha Pointon from the Scholarships Office says the response from all are a testament to the relationships built and the community network of AUT staff, students, graduates, and alumni.

“One of AUT’s strategic directions is responding to our place in the world and being a responsible global citizen. The school’s actions are a reminder that for the most part, you just need to ask, and great things happen. It’s exciting to be in an organisation where that is a reality,” says Pointon.

Ahio says the device given was very much needed following the volcanic eruption and is thankful for the prompt response by the university to get it to Tonga to aid in their relief efforts.

AUT graduate Stan Ahio hard at work in Tonga increasing internet access.

Tonga’s submarine cable is expected to be repaired and full communications restored in the next few months.

“We want to acknowledge the Deputy Head of School Prof. Tek Tjing Lie for accepting the emergency request in no-time, as well as Stephen Hartley and Sacha Pointon for making necessary arrangements within a very short notice. Thank you AUT,” says Ahio.