SOUTH PACIFIC APPLIED GEOSCIENCE COMMISSION (SOPAC)

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Suva, Fiji Islands

Media Releases June 21, 1999

NEW VOLCANIC HAZARD MITIGATION STRATEGY FOR FIJI'S TAVEUNI

Dr. Shane Cronin of Massey University, New Zealand, has prepared a new Volcanic Hazard Mitigation Strategy for Taveuni. The Strategy will be utilized and further developed by DISMAC in the Ministry of Regional Development, in order to prepare for any future possibility of activity on Taveuni. The Strategy is a long-term plan for preparedness, because there is no immediate threat of volcanic activity on the island.

Dr. Cronin’s scientific work over the past two years on Taveuni was supported by the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology, in partnership with: Massey University, SOPAC, South Pacific Disaster Reduction Program, New Zealand Overseas Development Aid, UNESCO, and the Ministry of Regional Development.

The main components of the Strategy are a volcanic hazard and risk assessment for the island, as well as a volcanic operational support plan. The hazard assessment indicates the last eruption on Taveuni was some 300-400 years ago. This is one of the longest periods of quiet in the volcano's recent history, where there is an overall average interval of 60 years between eruptions throughout the last 10 000 years. In fact, while the ancestors of Taveuni people were living on the island, they experienced at least 36 eruptions.

It is part of our responsibility as a society to prepare for disaster events such as volcanic eruptions. Since it is a phenomenon that has never been experienced by the current generation of people in Fiji, there is a need to develop plans to cope with any future events. This has led to the formulation of the Taveuni volcanic operational support plan, which aims to minimize any potential future impacts of a volcanic disaster.

The Taveuni operational plan and hazard assessment is the first of several more to be completed for Fiji. Aside from Taveuni, Dr. Cronin is about to undertake further work on Kadavu, Koro and Rotuma islands, thus providing a complete picture of possible new volcanism in Fiji.

The Taveuni Volcanic Hazard Mitigation Strategy is being presented in a three-day workshop for senior government, donor, planning, and emergency management organizations. This is scheduled to run from June 21-23.

Assisting in the workshop presentations are local Mineral Resources Department and SOPAC staff.

To result from the workshop will be a series of planning and development recommendations to be put before the Fiji government

A local workshop and public awareness program on Taveuni is planned for later in the year.

CHIEF NEW ZEALAND VOLCANOLOGIST VISITS FIJI

New Zealand’s Chief-Volcanologist, Dr. Brent Alloway, is visiting Suva to participate in a Workshop on the Volcanic Hazard Mitigation Strategy for Taveuni. This workshop is being run to disseminate the strategy developed by his colleague, Dr. Shane Cronin, to high level Government, donor, planning and emergency management organizations.

Dr. Alloway states that in dealing with natural hazards like volcanoes there are two broad approaches -- to choose inaction or to prepare to react, and to put in place measures to avoid the worst effects.

Dr. Shane Cronin, in conjunction with SOPAC and SPDRP, has spent the last two years examining the volcanic history of Taveuni. His findings indicate that portions of the island have repeatedly been affected by volcanic eruptions and determined that an eruptive event occurs once approximately every sixty years. Volcanic activity on Taveuni, therefore, has the potential to cause future loss of property and significant economic disruption.

On this basis of Dr. Cronin’s hazard assessment work, a draft volcanic hazard mitigation plan for Taveuni was formulated. The purpose of this is to establish an operational framework for the protection of human life and property in case of actual or potential volcanic activity on Taveuni. This plan describes principles for response, which DISMAC encourages key responding agencies to adopt and that the community should be aware of. It also provides a mechanism for integrating emergency plans of other essential agencies and describes systems and protocols for hazard monitoring. This exciting work, the first of its type in Fiji, is modeled on similar work being widely undertaken in areas surrounding New Zealand active volcanoes as well as other Pacific Island countries.

There is considerable potential to extend and apply this sort of important work to other islands of the Fiji Group.

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