Tonga volcano eruption: New Zealanders organise essential relief supplies for tsunami-hit Tongans

The situation in Tonga may be unclear, but that hasn't stopped the community in New Zealand from swinging into action.

A disaster relief committee has begun coordinating a relief drive so relatives can send essential items straight to families in need.

Essential water supplies are on the way with the New Zealand Navy and big relief organisations are planning their response, but the community in Aotearoa is planning family-to-family relief by sending a personalised 44-gallon drum with supplies inside.

"So people would purchase a drum and then they would pack it there with volunteers," says Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki, co-chair of the Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee.

"This is a representation of showing their love to their family in Tonga by contributing something from them to Tonga."

Melino Maka, from the Tongan Advisory Council, says New Zealand has sent relief to the Pacific whenever there's been a disaster. In 2009 after a tsunami hit Samoa, containers packed with personal family relief drums were successfully and quickly sent in shipping containers on a navy frigate.

"It's something we have done every disaster relief and we haven't had any issue with it," Maka says.

The man who helped with donating and coordinating containers then is helping again - former All Black Sir Michael Jones.

"We are all hurting. Not just the Tongan part of the family, the Samoans, the Cook Islanders and of course that extends to Kiwis," he says.

An empty car park at Mt Smart Stadium will hopefully soon fill up with families packing relief into drums and containers.

Hosting shipping containers won't be the only role Mt Smart plays in disaster relief. The first home game of new rugby club Moana Pasifika against the Chiefs will be a pre-season dedicated fundraiser as well.

"Bring in the whole community, have the food and everything, is about fundraising for our families back in Tonga," Sir Michael says.

Other Kiwi businesses are also fundraising. Tauranga-based Heilala Vanilla sources its product from 300 farmers in Tonga - it hasn't heard from any of them.

"A lot of them are smallholder growers. They are on outer islands which are very low lying and very at risk of saltwater damage and ash to the plantation, as well as their livelihoods and wellbeing of their families," says Jennifer Boggis.

With communications still cut, the scale of Tonga's need remains unclear.