Video: Grieving Tongans sing as Queen Mother's body is carried onto plane for final journey home

Tonga's Queen Mother, Halaevalu Mata'aho, has begun her last journey home to Tonga today, accompanied by her loved ones.

A group of grieving Tongans gathered at Whenuapai Airport in Auckland where they sang mournfully as the Queen Mother's body was carried onto the plane that will take her home.

The body of Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho is heading back to Tonga to be laid to rest. Source: 1 NEWS

The flight departed for Tonga at 9.25am.

The 90-year-old matriarch died in Auckland on Sunday, February 19.

1 NEWS Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver was given exclusive access to the royal family at Tonga's official residence in Auckland.

Princess Pilolevu Tuita is not just the Kingdom of Tonga's princess, she's also a daughter who has just lost her mother, Dreaver reported.

Tomorrow the late Queen Mother makes her last journey home to Tonga accompanied by her loved ones. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's been a shock because we did not realise that she was going to leave us so soon," Princess Pilolevu Tuita said.

Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho lay in the next room, flanked by two royal undertakers, as her grandchildren and family sat close by, keeping her company.

"When there were family tragedies and troubles, we remember that she was really the backbone much of the time," Princess Pilolevu said.

Auckland's Tongan community is also in mourning and last Sunday night thousands gathered to remember a queen who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for charity.

"It is a great loss and it has united all Tongans in New Zealand," said Reverend Seneti Fiusati of the New Zealand Wesleyan Church.

Despite the changing times, there's no sign the royal family has lost any of its support here, Dreaver reported.

"My mother said 'we can never stop change, what we should do is try and prepare for change',"  Princess Pilolevu said.

"I would like to see us go forward very strong in our traditional bonds."

Princess Pilolevu says she promised her mother she would continue some of her work.

"She always knew what to do and she got up and did it. So I'm afraid I still have a lot to learn and to aspire to," Princess Pilolevu said.

The royals say their role now is to comfort their people, their own mourning starts after the funeral

"A strong family will create a strong country. I believe in that," Princess Pilolevu said.

The Tongan royal family say their role now is to comfort their people and their own mourning starts after the funeral.


The body of Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho is heading back to Tonga to be laid to rest, following her death in Auckland earlier this month. Source: 1 NEWS