'It's not Tongan' - Community leaders unhappy injured bus crash victims kept performing

Tongan community leaders say it was culturally inappropriate for members of a Tongan school brass band caught up in a fatal bus crash to continue fundraising after the traumatic incident.

Tongan citizens Sione Taumololo, 11, and Talita Fifita, 33, died after a bus carrying the Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College Brass Band from Tonga went down a 100m bank on SH2 near Gisborne on Christmas Eve.

One of the injured passengers who was taken to Waikato Hospital died just over a week later. She was Leotisia Malakai, 55. 

Community leaders say it was culturally inappropriate for those in the Christmas Eve crash to fundraise afterwards. Source: 1 NEWS

Community leaders say in the weeks following the crash the band group kept performing, despite injuries and shock.

An ambulance was called to one service where the bandmaster was rushed to intensive care.

"It shocked me. It's not Tongan. We Tongans, like when we have a mourning, a funeral, we stop completely doing any excitement or any entertainment for 10 days," said Reverend Lopini Filise of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga New Zealand. 

"I believe everyone would like to go home. I feel pity on them but I could not do a thing," he said.

Melino Maka of the Tonga Advisory Council said the band members "were paraded at the service, it was inappropriate".

He said with the incentive to keep the fundraising going, "the kids wellbeing becomes secondary".

'We did that in honour'

But the organisers say the group was well taken care of.

Those who were not able to perform didn't have to, all those in the crash got medical help, ongoing counselling sessions and pastoral care from a large team of professional supporters.

And organisers are adamant respect was shown to the three who died, by helping their families financially.

They also wanted to ensure the very reason they came to New Zealand - to fundraise for their school - continued.

"We did that in honour, with respect in our heart. There was no disrespect whatsoever," said Mele Suipi Latu, organiser.

Mr Maka says action, not just talk, is needed on better planning for Tongan groups intending to travel to New Zealand.

While most of the group have returned home to Tonga, 10 have stayed on, including the two still in hospital, getting the medical help they still desperately need.