Preserve Tonga's Cultural Heritage Site at Popua (Va'epopua Sia heu lupe)

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The Popua mounds are an extremely significant cultural heritage site in Tonga that are under threat of housing development. We, the undersigned, respectfully call for the Parliament and Ministers of Tonga to adhere to the Tonga National Cultural Policy and World Heritage Convention of 1972 and preserve this heritage site from housing development.  (Read more here: "New Subdivision a Death Sentence for Heritage Site").

The Popua mounds and causeways were first documented in 1777 by Captain Cook but first mapped in 1920 by the archaeologist William McKern during the B.P. Bishop Museum’s Bayard Dominik Expedition. Sixty years later in the 1980s, Australian National University researcher Dr. Dirk Spennemann also mapped the mounds writing a brief report on this work.  The Tongan Research Association has acknowledged the precariousness of the mounds relative to the reclamation project at a number of its meetings and these concerns were passed to government.  Similarly in 2011 Dr. Wendy Pond wrote to the Minister of Lands about the Popua reclamation project and the almost certain destruction of the archaeological complex as a consequence.  Her recommendation to alter the reclamation plan to avoid these sites was not acted upon.  Legend tells us this heritage site was the birthplace of 'Aho'eitu, the first Tu'i Tonga (King of Tonga) [Source: see Note1]. 

The mound, or sia is a rare archaeological site that is significant not only to Tonga, but to the unwritten history of Polynesian empire, and to world heritage in general.

Aside from this site being historically significant, the Popua mounds are further an inappropriate site for houses, as it is low lying and the people building houses there will be severely affected by extreme weather events. Building more houses in this area is a recipe for social, environmental and heritage disaster.

The first modern King of Tonga, George Tupou I, foresaw that there would come a day when his people would be “destroyed for lack of knowledge”. We, the undersigned, ask the Honourable Members of Parliament, do NOT let this prophetic statement come true. Safeguard and preserve the Popua Sia for future generations and find another site for housing developments.




Send email/letters for Hon Akilisi Pohiva, Prime Minister of Tonga, to his p.a. and (Saia Misinale) This is the minister who made the land allocations.

Letters can be sent to: Parliament House, Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Send email/letter of support for Hon Lord Ma'afu, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Lands, Survey and Natural Resources to his p.a. (Rosamond Bing). This is the minister who needs public support to reserve the sia.



Note1: Thank you to Professor David V. Burley for allowing us to cite his letter dated Aug. 3, 2015 sent to Hon. Lord Vaea, Nobles Representative in Parliament and former Secretary of the Tonga Traditions Committee.



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