AUSTRALIA-SOPAC SIGN MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

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SOUTH PACIFIC APPLIED GEOSCIENCE COMMISSION (SOPAC)

Suva, Fiji Islands

Press Release January 26, 2000

AUSTRALIA-SOPAC SIGN MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

SUMMARY

Statement prepared by SOPAC for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Australia. Signing on behalf of Australia was Mrs. Kathy Sullivan, Parliamentary Secretary, and on behalf of SOPAC was Russell Howorth, Acting Director.

CONTENTS

STATEMENT BY RUSSELL HOWORTH Acting Director, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)

"Australian Parliamentary Secretary, High Commissioner, colleagues and media, it gives me great pleasure to be here with you this afternoon to represent the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) for the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Australia and SOPAC.

"Australia has been a strong supporter of SOPAC and SOPAC’s work as a Pacific regional organization for many years. Though Australia joined SOPAC as a member government in 1986, for many years previously Australia’s presence in the region through SOPAC was in the form of direct technical advice from Australian institutions such as the Australian Geological Survey Organization (then Bureau of Mineral Resources). Indeed when SOPAC was still a UNDP regional project from 1974 to 1991, Australia provided funds to support secondments from Australia for staff positions in the SOPAC Secretariat.

"Since joining the organization Australia has strengthened its commitment to SOPAC and its work to the extent that we are here today to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to reflect this high-level of commitment. The MOU covers the three-year period calendar years 2000 through 2002 and provides for AUD$ 800,00 per year in direct financial support for the organization. Currently exchanging at just over FJD $1 million (US$ 500,000 this reflects a significant portion of the 2000 budget for SOPAC approved by Council members at just over FJD$ 9 million (US$ 4.52 million).

"Australia’s support within the work program for 2000 is primarily though not exclusively focused on the mineral resources assessment work and hazards assessment in the region.

"Carrying out field surveys in coastal and lagoon/reef environments to determine the quantity and the extent of supplies of sand and gravel for aggregate use in construction, circulation modeling in lagoons in order to support fishing and aquaculture developments, and site surveys for coastal infrastructure such as harbors, wharves and pipelines, are each high priorities of all of the island member countries.

"Support for the maintenance and upgrading of the SOPAC Petroleum Databank is critical to the countries with petroleum potential.

"Many of the island countries are vulnerable to natural hazards and increasingly to the impacts of human interventions with the natural environment. Australia’s support for the hazards assessment in the region is wide ranging, the Pacific cities project within SOPAC is currently carrying out "all hazards" assessments and risk assessments in several capital cities.

"Though not covered specifically by this MOU Australia support for SOPAC also covers work in the water, energy and disaster management sectors, SOPAC looks forward to signing similar MOU with Australia to support these commitments. Furthermore, SOPAC has received direct support from Australia through such avenues as the Australian Youth Ambassadors Scheme and the Australia IDNDR Committee.

"In closing it would be remiss of me if I did not extend the apologies of the Director, Alf Simpson, for his not being here today. He is away on duty travel.

"Finally, on behalf of all the island member countries I would like to take this opportunity to once again express deep appreciation to the Government of Australia."

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