AUSTRALIA’S National Transport Research Organisation has launched a Strategic Transport Infrastructure Advisory Program with Tonga’s Ministry of Infrastructure.

NTRO and the Ministry of Infrastructure signed an agreement to commence the program, which will cover road, maritime and aviation assets throughout the Kingdom of Tonga.

The signing of the agreement was welcomed by the Tonga’s minister of infrastructure Sevenitini Toumo’ua and NTRO chief executive officer Michael Caltabiano.

NTRO and the Ministry of Infrastructure have commenced the “early works package” of the program, focusing on materials science, infrastructure measurement, asset performance and strategic transport infrastructure advisory work.

The materials-science focus area aims to see an uplift of the ministry’s evidence-based, scientific assessment of local materials for the country’s infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure measurement work will focus on road and aviation assets and will aim to map a pathway for asset performance and management.

Early works will also see NTRO asset performance experts begin work on selected aviation and road assets, while the NTRO strategic infrastructure advisory team will focus on examining major infrastructure projects currently under consideration by the ministry.

The early works package would lead to the development of a long program of work across road, port and aviation assets throughout Tonga. NTRO plans to work with Tongan and Australian governments to secure approvals for the longer-term work program.

“NTRO is incredibly excited to advance work on this program as a critical friend to the Ministry of Infrastructure,” NTRO executive director Jason Sprott said.

“We will walk with the Ministry of Infrastructure in a true partnership – listening, learning and transferring skills and knowledge along the way,” he said.

“This agreement signals the commencement of an enduring program where we will see significant improvement in sustainable transport infrastructure – being the platform upon which to build a more prosperous and resilient nation.”

Mr Toumo’ua said the new partnership agreement represents “a high level of commitment” by the government of Tonga to improving the country’s roads, ports and airports.

“As an engineer, I am very excited about this work with Australia’s National Transport Research Organisation,” he said.

Mr Toumo’ua said Tonga would have access to NTRO’s transport laboratory services, which would reinforce the transport laboratory at the Ministry of Infrastructure.

“This will provide scientific and measurement tools we urgently need to help build and maintain Tonga’s transport infrastructure,” he said.

“As always, the main aim is to improve the safety of transport. This also provides real scientific-based solutions to fixing our deteriorating roads and the rapidly increasing traffic and congestion in Tonga.

“We will make better informed decisions for major infrastructure projects, not just to get the best outcome for Tonga, but to deliver works efficiently and cost-effectively.

“I look forward to working with NTRO and believe this is the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial partnership.”