News in 2015

Report on the Pacific Geospatial and Surveying Council Meeting and GIS / RS User Conference 

16-20 November 2015, Suva Fiji

This report in .pdf-format

Pacific Geospatial and Surveying Council Meeting

PGSC 2015 - Photo courtesy of SPC

The 2nd Pacific Geospatial and Surveying Council (PGSC) meeting was held on the 19 – 20 November 2015 at the Pacifika Conference Room, Lotus Building of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Nubua, Suva.   The Australian Government’s Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPac) invited Rob Sarib to represent FIG and to participate in discussions by contributing to the development of a “strategy document” for the PGSC.  Mr Sarib was also asked to facilitate workshop sessions with representatives from the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN GGIM) - Dr John Dawson (also from Geoscience Australia), and SPC Geoscience Division officers and Mr Jens Kruger, and Ms Molly Powers-Tora.

At the first meeting of the PGSC in November 2014, Pacific Island surveyors, hydrographers and geospatial scientists established the PGSC and developed a Charter in response to the FIG Small Islands Developing States (SIDs) Suva Statement on Spatially Responsible Governance.  The PGSC Charter was formulated to recognise regional challenges and the opportunities to improve capacity building, knowledge and data sharing, and the appreciation and enhancement of co-operation for responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forest, of geospatial (and survey) infrastructure and information management.

To date, 11 of the 14 participating countries have endorsed the PGSC Charter and it is expected the remaining 3 will follow in the next 6 months. It has to be mentioned that the adoption of the United Nations (UN) resolution, initiated by the Republic of Fiji, on Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development at the UN General Assembly on 26 February 2015, may have provided the much needed political will and momentum for this regional action.

The PGSC regional strategic planning workshop was opened with insightful messages from Mr Faatasi Malologa (PGSC interim Chair), Mr. Dawson, Mr. Sarib and Dr. Kifle Kahsai (Chief Geoscientist at SPC).  The main component of the workshop discussion was skilfully conducted in an “appreciative and participatory” manner by Ms. Powers-Tora. This style of engagement set an informal, open, friendly and non-apprehensive atmosphere, and was appropriate for the Pacific community.  As a consequence, this environment allowed each delegate to actively and freely espouse their experiences, knowledge and ideas. The questions posed to the PGSC members were as follows –

PGSC members work shopping the strategic plan

Responses from the PGSC members were then analysed and grouped which resulted in the following preliminary strategic goals being endorsed by the PGSC –

Strategic Goal 1

Strategic Goal 2              

Strategic Goal 3

Strategic Goal 4

There were several subsequent sessions on the development of 4-6 strategic actions for each strategic goal, and on the format or structure of the strategy plan document.  Due to time constraints, the PGSC had to form several sub-working groups to finalise the strategic actions, and a strategic plan working group was created to oversee and prepare a draft strategy document.  Mr. Dawson, Mr. Sarib, Mr. Kruger and Ms. Powers-Tora were assigned to be advisors and reviewers to this process.   It is anticipated that a draft strategic plan will be ready for review at the Christchurch FIG Working Week in May 2015.

The PGSC meeting concluded with the election of office bearers.  Both the interim Chair Mr. Faatasi Malologa (Tuvalu) and Vice Chair Mr Paserio Samisoni (Fiji) were re-elected as the permanent occupants for 2016.

From left to right – Dr. John Dawson, PGSC Chair Mr. Faatasi Malologa, Mr. Rob Sarib

From an FIG perspective the work done by the PGSC needs to be applauded as the effort, the desire to succeed and the political will is evident.   The PGSC through the development of their strategy plan are aligned with the FIG vision, and acknowledge the present FIG Council’s theme and work-plan objectives to contribute to the global sustainable development agenda, building the capacity of surveyors for change, and the importance of regional collaboration. It was also apparent that PGSC members are very much aware of the need for regional surveyors to measure, monitor and analyse the tangible or real effects of climate change on achieving sustainable development. For example one of the strategic actions discussed was for the Pacific community to recognise the present and future contribution of surveyors to manage the social, economic, environmental and technological challenges caused by sea level rise in the region. 

Considering the above, FIG in this region is a well-respected non-government based organisation, who has a role and responsibility for advocating the need for professional surveyors and geospatial scientists. To maintain and improve this profile FIG will need to actively support the Pacific Island Countries and Territories.  To fulfil this responsibility the FIG Council and all FIG Commissions should explore the opportunity to convene future technical workshops or seminars or participant in relevant events to address the challenges specific to this region.    Initial discussions on such matters should be directed to the PGSC or the FIG member association Fiji Institution of Surveyors.

The work completed by the PGSC to date on the development of the strategy document and related activities has been exceptional.  The PGSC members have ownership of their destiny, and realise there are challenges which need to be considered, managed, and resolved.  For example -

Final notes –

Fiji Times:


Images of Suva

GIS / RS User Conference

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) User Conference was again held at the Japan ICT Centre, University of the South Pacific (USP).  This unique symposium has been running since 1999, and was jointly sponsored by USP, SPC Geoscience Division, the Fiji Lands Department and numerous commercial or government based organisations or practitioners operating in the region. The theme for conference was “Bridging the Gaps by Creating Smarter Maps”.  Refer to website -

The conference attracted over 300 delegates from 20 plus countries.  Participants viewed and listened to over 80 presentations, attended several technical workshops and enjoyed several tropical evening functions.  The conference convenors provided an event that delivered knowledge, and enabled professionals and stakeholders to engage, network, and contribute to the dissemination of regional geo-information, applications and capacity development. 

From a holistic perspective, the underlying theme for this event seemed to focus on environmental management and the related professional / technical activities of surveyors. Overall there were many overview or status presentations from the government, private and academic sectors that related to technical issues and applications from GIS, RS, geoscience, survey and hydrographic community.  It was apparent remote sensing or satellite based data and imagery was a major data source to perform research, science, data / information management and analysis in mainstream GISs.

 The main observations to note where –

In concluding, the GIS / RS User Conferences have emerged as a significant surveying event in the Pacific.  It could be said that the FIG Pacific South Island Development Symposium (SIDS) - Policies and Practices for Responsible Governance in September 2013, has assisted with the growing awareness of surveying in the region.  Nevertheless the substantial recent activity and reference to the observations mentioned above can only highlight the potential opportunities and need for FIG and its member associations to establish an outreach program for the ongoing development of the professional surveyor in this region.

From left to right – Mr. Rob Sarib, Mr. Bart Thomas, Dr. John Dawson and Mr. Steven Ackerly


Rob Sarib
08 December 2015

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