Volcanic Monitoring


Since 1995 AusAID has invested a substantial amount of funding in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Volcanological Service through its Papua New Guinea – Australia Volcanological Service Support (VSS) Project, mainly through the PNG Government’s Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO). RVO is a branch of the Geohazards Division of the PNG Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management. It is concerned primarily with mitigating the effects of volcanic eruptions on PNG Communities through volcano monitoring and eruption forecasting, volcanic-hazard and risk analysis, and public-awareness activities. Geoscience Australia is the Managing Contractor for the VSS Project.

Volcanological Service Support Project - to 1999

The VSS Project was established as a result of the destructive 1994 volcanic eruption (AusAID Focus – Vol. 15 no.3 [PDF 878KB]) at Rabaul and was aimed at strengthening the PNG volcanological service through RVO. The VSS Project consisted of two phases:

Phase 1: purchase of new monitoring equipment.

Phase 2: a more comprehensive program made up of four components

  • Volcano Monitoring: a major technical upgrade of monitoring equipment at five high-risk volcanoes
  • Technical Foundations: enhancement of RVO analytical skills and of the RVO knowledge base of PNG volcanoes, especially Rabaul volcano (this included a major geophysical survey, RELACS, of the Rabaul area)
  • Volcanic Hazard Information Management: provision of a volcanic-hazard mapping facility at RVO, designed to enhance community preparedness to the effects of volcanic eruptions
  • Observatory support: provision of transport, improved communication links, and public-awareness materials (including also building refurbishment at RVO headquarters).

The major part of this Project was completed in 1999, but Geoscience Australia has continued to manage on-going AusAID support to RVO through a low-level ‘twinning’ arrangement.

Rabaul Volcanological Observatory Twinning Program

Mount Lamington Eruption

G.A.M. Taylor’s (G.C.), photograph of the
effects of pyroclastic flows from the
Mount Lamington eruption 1951.
Reproduced with permission from BMR Journal

Following the success of the VSS Project, AusAID agreed to fund a lower level extension to the VSS Project under a Twinning arrangement to help maintain and support the outcomes of the Project. The Twinning Program commenced at the completion of the VSS Project, initially for a two-year period, followed by a further five-year extension, and then again by a series of shorter extensions. Recommendations made within the review of AusAID’s Papua New Guinea Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Program have since extended the Twinning arrangement between the two organisations until 2013.

The principal aim of the ‘twinning’ arrangement is to ensure that the investment made by AusAID during the 1996-99 VSS Project, is secured through an on-going strengthening of the relationship between RVO and Geoscience Australia. The goal of the Twinning Program is to reduce volcanic risk in PNG by supporting the strengthening of RVO capacity to meet its organisational goals and in particular the monitoring of volcanoes in PNG. Furthermore, the Program is designed to ensure that RVO’s important role in emergency-management in PNG is sustained.