Vanuatu elevation data to benefit future planning


Digital surface mapping of Vila Bay, Vanuatu showing above ground features such as trees and buildings and water surface with boats.

Screen capture of animation of the
new LiDAR data acquired in Vila Bay,

High resolution elevation data acquired by the Australian Government on behalf of the Government of Vanuatu will become a significant asset to Vanuatu helping to facilitate better coastal planning and management.

Pacific Island Countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise, coastal erosion and extreme weather events, with most settlements, infrastructure and industry located within the coastal zone.

The primary aim of the project was to identify the potential flooding risks to Vanuatu's commercial districts and rural communities, with the focus being to capture high resolution elevation data for priority areas in the capital Port Vila, as well as Luganville.

Geoscience Australia project manager David Simon said this involved the collection of high resolution topographic and bathymetric data through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology for priority areas of Efate, Malekula and Espiritu Santo Islands.

"The high resolution elevation data will improve the accuracy of flood modelling and the ability to understand current and future risk to infrastructure and communities," Mr Simon explained.

LiDAR and imagery data were captured via a series of aerial surveys undertaken in 2012 and 2013, resulting in the collection of billions of individual 3D data points.

The LiDAR survey data have been further processed to derive two different elevation models: a 'bare earth' Digital Elevation Model (DEM) based solely on the topographic and bathymetry data; and a Digital Surface Model (DSM) incorporating elevations of above-ground features such as trees, buildings and other structures.

The Australian High Commissioner in Vanuatu, Mr Jeremy Bruer, presented the Government of Vanuatu with the new LiDAR data and imagery this week.

"This new data will be invaluable in supporting the Government of Vanuatu to better understand and manage these risks, in order to protect coastal communities and their livelihoods," Mr Bruer said.

The work is part of the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning program, which includes cooperation between the Government of Vanuatu and the Australian Government, represented by the Department of Environment, Geoscience Australia and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in partnership with the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Spatial Innovation.

A flythrough animation of the LiDAR data, which can be viewed via Geoscience Australia's YouTube channel, was shown during the handover to the Government of Vanuatu.