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Pacific Geospatial and Surveying Council hosts their 4th annual meeting in Tonga

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 09/04/2018


Members of the Pacific Geospatial and Surveying Council (PGSC) are here in the Kingdom for the Council’s 4th annual meeting. Representing the Tonga Government was the Hon. Minister for Justice – Vuna Fa’otusia.


The leaders and representatives of member countries on the Council are attending this meeting as well as representatives from the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors and the Australia Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institutes.


This meeting is held together with an International Workshop on Legal and Policy Frameworks of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management – UNGGIM.


Speaking at the opening program, the Chair of the PGSC – Fa’atasi Malologa gave a summary of the establishment of PGSC which assists the development of this sector in the Pacific.


“The council was established, in 2014, as you may know, under the COSPAC program supported by Australian government. Under COSPACs pacific sea level monitoring program, the surveying and geospatial component plays a critical role in helping us understand the movements of our individual islands in the horizontal and vertical components and have the privilege of listening to the experts definitions that have been briefed by Dr. Dawson on how critical and important the role of surveyors and geospatial in the region. Through this council meeting, members will be able to share and seek technical and professional support from each other and through the technical and support of our partners such as UNGGIM, Geoscience Australia, our friends from New Zealand and Australia and of course our partners based in Suva,” he said.


Dr. John Dawson, chair of the UN-GGIM Asia Pacific Geodesy Working Group, highlighted the 2006 earthquake that had occurred here in Tonga and the importance of the geospatial information to dealing with these events.


“In 2006, there was a magnitude 8 earthquake on the nearby Tonga Trench and I’m sure those of you living here may remember it. The land that we’re standing on now in almost an instant moved by 7cm to the east and dropped by 1 cm into the ocean, while land closer to the earthquake moved by 42cm and dropped by over 20cm into the ocean. The immediate tragedy and impact of earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis from events like this one is significant but there are longer term impacts as well. Just take a moment to think about the water and sewage infrastructure. Infrastructure is engineered with cm accuracy to enable water to reliably flow and waste suddenly needing to cope with the sea bed 20cm higher. It’s perhaps often too easy to just count impacts and other natural hazards as unavoidable tragedies – that’s not completely true. Geospatial information management is actually critical to addressing and in part overcoming these challenges. We can manage it, at least in part, if we can measure it, and then together with other geospatial information, plan for it. In the Pacific you have made an important start. The fact that the Royal Scientific Community know about Pacific earthquakes, like the Tonga event, is in no small part due to your efforts. Your work in building a regional geoseismic work in partnership with the Australian government has allowed this to happen. It has made an important contribution to the study of worldwide earthquakes and how sea level is changing over time,” he said.


Akuila Tawake from the Pacific Community also emphasized the importance of the geospatial and surveying information to the Pacific.


“It would be preaching to the converted, to stress that geospatial information underpins the work of hazard mapping and assessment, disaster recovery and future planning. Geospatial and Geodetic knowledge is of enormous importance to the Pacific Island countries especially bearing in mind, the relationship between rising sea levels and islands that may rise or subside due to geotectonic processes. It is important to have a thorough understanding of all these dynamics when considering climate change adaptation measures or designing new infrastructure developments,” he said.


This meeting will continue throughout this week, which is the first time it has been hosted here in Tonga. Tomorrow evening, the Prime Minister, Hon. Akilisi Pohiva will be launching the PGSC Strategy for the next 10 years.


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