Kiwi engineer part of massive Tonga rebuild.

A New Zealand engineer who oversaw the construction of cyclone-resistant houses in Tonga, is helping Habitat for Humanity New Zealand with a new project to repair 300 homes damaged in February by Cyclone Gita.

Habitat-built houses in Tonga passed a savage test when Gita, a category-5 cyclone packing winds peaking at more than 285 kilometres an hour and rated the most severe cyclone to hit Tonga in 60 years.

“Those houses survived virtually without a scratch while many houses and other buildings around them were destroyed or badly damaged,” said Murray Harding, an executive team member and former principal at Babbage Consultants.Image of a Habitat for Humanity built house

“Habitat are now running a new programme, to repair houses categorised with minor to moderate damage and make them resilient to future storms.”

Murray’s work is supported by a $4000 grant from Babbage, which also supported the project to build cyclone-resistant houses in 2016.

For that programme, some Babbage staff volunteered as part of the Habitat Global Village programme to build three houses and helped finish five more. Babbage supported that venture with funds to help cover the volunteers’ travel, food and accommodation.

Murray has been volunteering his time with Habitat to assesses the damage to homes around Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa and working with local building teams to assess housing needs and plan rebuilds. He has also made financial contributions to the re-build and will continue to provide engineering expertise to the project over the six-month timeframe.

Image of a house in Tonga requiring repair.“This programme will make a big dent in the number of houses with minor to moderate damage and it’ll make a big difference to the 300 families involved,” he said.

The Habitat for Humanity disaster response in Tonga received funds by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs under their Disaster Response Partnership. It is implemented locally by Caritas Tonga.

Lou Maea, Habitat’s senior adviser for international projects, said the Babbage support for the latest project meant more money could be put into the rebuilding work. “We are gratefully to Babbage for its financial support in our disaster response programme but especially for the engineering advice and guidance that Murray has provided.

“That generosity translates into more funds that are directly invested into the project helping vulnerable families.”

View Murray's profile here: Murray Harding

A proud owner and her Habitat for Humanity built house.
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