Adaptation to future sea level rise to build resilience in coastal communities requires a sound understanding of the potential impacts and risks associated with coastal inundation and erosion. For populated coastal areas of low gradient elevation, such as Nuku’alofa in Tonga and the north coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG), high resolution elevation data can improve the accuracy of inundation modelling and subsequently the estimation of risk to infrastructure and communities. Such high resolution elevation data has not been available in the Pacific  until this project captured data in Tonga, PNG, Vanuatu and Samoa ("the Pacific Islands"). 


The LiDAR information and flood layers as shown in the publically accessible Vanuatu Google Globe.

The Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning Program (PACCSAP) Coastal Inundation  Project began within the Department of the Environment (DotE) with technical scoping missions to the Pacific Islands, and early CRCSI prioritisation work. DotE commissioned the CRCSI to assess which areas of settlement along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are located at low elevations and may be subject to inundation as a result of future sea level rises. The CRCSI combined InSAR elevation data with census and infrastructure GIS data to determine those settlements at risk from inundation. Following this successful work, DotE then commissioned the CRCSI to oversee and design the capacity building program. The early scoping mission identified LiDAR survey priorities, and the training and capacity building needs within the context of LiDAR use in a GIS environment to support strategic and operational decision making in the Pacific Islands. This activity was the first part of an overall project to assist the Pacific Islands improve planning and management strategies for coastal inundation along particularly vulnerable parts of their coastline and associated settlements.

This project  aimed to enhance the capacity of Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Samoa to undertake assessments of inundation risk to key settlements and infrastructure from sea level rise through the provision of critical baseline data, improved GIS capacity, and implementation of simple coastal inundation modelling. The CRCSI provided the technical expertise, design and overall project management of the Project. Through the CRCSI's role as a technical expert and collaborator, we were supported by a number of partner organisations, including GHD, Geoscience Australia, AAM and NGIS Australia.

Phase 1 of the PACCSAP project captured high resolution topographic and bathymetric data in the partner countries using airborne LiDAR technology. Coincident high-resolution aerial imagery was also captured with the LiDAR. Along with the data capture, Phase 1 also provided an initial institutional technical capability assessment with each Pacific Island country government to receive and use the elevation data. The scoping exercise assessed the requirements for the Government Departments to sustainably use the data for coastal inundation modelling and risk assessment management.

Based on the recommendations of the Phase 1, each pacific Island country was included in Phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 built on the LiDAR acquisition completed under Phase 1 by undertaking the capacity building and training program with the partner Government Department personnel to support the management and use of LiDAR data in a GIS environment. Phase 2 of the project was jointly conducted by the CRCSI and NGIS. The CRCSI provided the technical expertise for designing the project, and managing the training and capacity building contract. NGIS was contracted to perform the training in each of the Pacific Island countries.

The training program was tailored to each country based on their expertise, experience, software availability and IT resources. All countries were already operating GIS software environments so the skills did not need to be built from scratch. It was important that the existing GIS systems in each country were enhanced in the training, and not changed to a pre-designed GIS environment. This meant that the countries were trained in a selection of ESRI ArcGIS, MapInfo, Open Source QGIS, Google Earth and/or Global Mapper.

After the GIS training and capacity building a coastal risk assessment report was prepared with input from the partner country's training participants. The report serves as an initial coastal risk assessment for high level planning, and can be used to direct a more detailed study. The risk assessment reports contain coastal inundation modelling maps, initial risk assessment to infrastructure and settlements , key recommendations, and limitations of the data and analysis. The risk assessment has been performed by locals using simple bathtub models to generate the inundation areas in the maps against infrastructure and natural assets.

Lighthouse Award Dominc Ranson Cooper Minister Julie Bishop Nathan Quadros Nathan EatonPresenting the work at Paris COP21.

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Rebecca Moore using a slide from the Vanuatu Globe at the opening of her presentation.

Project Highlights and Promotions

There were numerous highlights within this project. One of the biggest highlights was having the Vanuatu Google Globe presented by Google at the White House Climate Data Initiative Announcement. Google's announcement at the White House showcased the high resolution DEM and visualisation tools developed for Vanuatu as a leading example within the global spatial community. See

The PNG program received significant support when Australia’s Governor General Quentin Bryce delivered the PNG LiDAR and aerial imagery data to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on behalf of the Australian Government.

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Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce delivering PNG LiDAR and aerial imagery data to PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill

The Vanuatu training program got additional news coverage when the Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses Kalosil, visited the GIS training room during the second training tranche. He was greatly impressed by the promotion of the project at the White House, he showed a prior knowledge of the program, and was grateful for the update on the training from Nathan Quadros, CRCSI and Nathan Eaton, NGIS.

The data handover in Vanuatu also received significant coverage as the Minister for Climate Change and Natural Disasters, Steven Kalsakau received the high-resolution elevation data from the Australian High Commissioner, Jeremy Bruer, at the National Disaster Management Office in Port Vila.

With considerable branding as the project progressed, news coverage and project exposure increased with each country. The local television and radio news covered elements from the project in PNG, Samoa and Vanuatu.


Nathan Quadros 2013 sqDr Nathan Quadros
General Manager - Business