New Zealand community welcomes Tonga princess

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New Zealand community welcomes Tonga princess

A north-west New South Wales community welcomed royalty with a visit from a Tongan princess, in what is believed to be an Australian first.

Gunnedah residents, farmers and council members welcomed Princess Angelika Lt Fuipeka Tuku aho who signed a sister-city agreement between the town and central Tongan suburb of Kolomotu'a.

Gunnedah Shire Council was believed to be the first Australian council to have a relationship with Tonga, which was first approved last year.

The princess said the occasion was important for both cities.

She said it was a very historic day for both Gunnedah and Kolomotu, and also because of the opportunities for people to come and help in different sectors and areas.

As a crowd gathered to watch the signing, Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the bond would help address Gunnedah's workforce shortages.

He said there are many different aspects of the relationship that will provide a benefit for our community well into the future.

We have seen the fruits of our labor with more people from Tonga filling some of the vacancies that are within Gunnedah shire, mostly in agriculture.

There will be a plan for people from Tonga to be able to get the skills and qualifications they need to help fill those positions as well as in the future. Over the past several years, Citrus grower Robert Hoddle had employed a number of Tongan workers.

He said that it will be a pathway for people to come in and work here from agriculture's perspective.

Part of what we're doing is to train people so that they'll come here and get skilled, or training will be done in Tonga before they leave for specific jobs. William Koloamatangi was one of the seasonal workers present at the signing.

He worked at an abattoir in Tamworth and made the hour-long trip to see the princess and witness a significant milestone for his country.

To be honest, I'm speechless, really happy because this is a milestone, not only for those who are already on the programs but for those who are about to come in the future, said Koloamatangi.