Pacific Islands Coastal Inundation Capacity Building

Coastal flooding and other serve weather events are becoming more frequent as we global temperatures increase. We need to act now to build resilience and understand what the effects of climate change will be on our coasts, and the coasts of our neighbours in island nations. We worked with Pacific Island governments in Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu to capture detailed digital elevation data for the analysis of sea level rise impact. The project was designed, delivered and implemented over two years with partners from Geoscience Australia, NGIS Australia, AAM Group, GHD and Pelydryn.

LiDAR data was used to update digital elevation models, which then allowed the creation of coastal inundation models to provide risk assessments of priority coastal areas. The risk assessment identified more than 10,000 buildings as “at high risk” of coastal inundation within 80 years including schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure.

We spent many hours training 195 people from 95 organisations – a range of government and local agencies in the Pacific Islands – on the coastal inundation models and how to analyse the risk maps. These agencies now have the tools to understand and communicate climate change risk to local communities and put adaptation and resilience plans in place.

Of the four Pacific Islands involved in this project, Vanuatu was the only country using Google Earth for GIS purposes. Using Google Earth as the platform, the Vanuatu Globe was developed as a visualisation tool for the display of the digital elevation models. The globe was subsequently used by the Education Department of Vanuatu for teaching purposes.

The Vanuatu Globe gave access to LiDAR data and imagery making it a groundbreaking open data portal for publicly sharing elevation and sea level rise information.

The work was funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in partnership with NGIS Australia and completed in late 2014.

In October 2015, this work won the United Nations Lighthouse Activities Momentum for Change Award for Mapping Sea Level Rise.