The ongoing Australia-Papua New Guinea Partnerships to reduce disaster risk in PNG
Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour and one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, experiencing many natural hazard events including earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and volcanic eruptions. Geoscience Australia first started working with the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1950 with the establishment of the Rabaul Volcano Observatory. Since then we have maintained a strong relationship with our PNG partners and have continued to collaborate on hazard science and monitoring in PNG.
There have been several key programs of work funded by Australian Aid which have allowed us to continue to work together to improve the available hazard science and datasets that are required to inform disaster decision making. We do this by:
- Maintaining and upgrading the seismic monitoring network in PNG.
- Hosting workshops and training sessions for our partners and the broader community in PNG.
- Hosting our PNG colleagues at our offices in Canberra for dedicated sessions to produce specific hazard products.
- Seeking out new partners who can use hazard and risk data to reduce risk in their own projects.
- Identifying new ways to obtain, generate or share data to support hazard and risk assessments.
- Generating new hazard data sets and maps using numerical computer modelling, making use of the National Computing Infrastructure.
A key component of all of our programs and ongoing collaboration is genuine partnerships. We have a long standing relationship with the Rabaul Volcano Observatory and the Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory (PMGO).
We have also sought to forge new partnerships with other sectors of the PNG community.
- The engineering and architecture community to support a user-driven approach to the establishment of new building codes in PNG for seismic hazards.
- The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) community to seek advice and input on developing hazard map products that are more user friendly
- The NGO community to collaborate on raising public awareness of hazards that PNG is exposed to and to understand how different sectors of the community are impacted by hazard events
We also have a long standing partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) Post in PNG who provide support and linkages to other parts of the Australian Aid program that would benefit from data and advice relating to disaster risk.
Geoscience Australia provides support to our partners to engage with the community on hazard and risk to increase awareness which is a pivotal first step in planning and preparedness activities at the community level.
- We have collaborated to produce education materials that are culturally appropriate and in the native language to communicate the risks posed by volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes and what to do in each of these events.
- We fund community visits so our partners can travel to remote locations to inform them of the hazard and risk posed by natural hazards in their location and training on what to do in the event of a tsunami or earthquake.
- We engage with the International schools to install low-cost seismic sensors to establish a community based seismic monitoring network which will strengthen the monitoring of earthquakes in PNG.
Science to policy
To ensure that the science and data that we generate is effective in reducing risk in PNG there needs to be a link to policy. We work with a many people to influence different aspects of policy to integrate credible science to allow evidence-based decision making.
- Collaboration with the Australia Pacific Climate Partnership (APCP) and DFAT has led to seismic risk informed design of new Australian humanitarian investments in PNG.
- Ongoing work with PMGO has resulted in a capability to provide seismic design information to consultants and engineers when requested which is then used to inform building design
- Engagement with non-traditional partners has resulted in a community accepted update on the PNG Building Code to ensure more consistent and safer building design for seismic hazard, leveraging the National Seismic Hazard Assessment we produced with PMGO.
- The recently launched PNG Hazards website, is the result of our partnership with PMGO. The website makes alerts and bulletins for hazard events, and other hazard information available to all.
- Currently we are working with PMGO on developing metrics which can be used to inform tsunami hazard policy, including planning and development of the coastal zone and evacuation guidelines.
Impact – reducing disaster risk
Our focus on partnerships, community engagement and science to policy to support decision making has allowed us to have a measurable impact in PNG, reducing the risk to future hazard events for the PNG community. There are a number of key outputs which have been used to reduce the risk to PNG communities posed by natural hazards.
- The establishment of permanent volcano monitoring stations at Rabaul, Ulawun, Manam, Karkar and Lamington to give early warning to communities of eruptions which allows safe evacuation.
- The development of rapid deployment seismic sensor kits which can be used to monitor other volcanoes at the first signs of unrest, to allow early warning for those communities as well.
- The production of a suite of hazard maps for East New Britain to allow for better planning and preparation in high risk locations.
- The development of landslide susceptibility maps to help inform preparedness and planning, particularly along the crucial Highlands Highway.
- The new National Seismic Hazard Assessment for PNG using the latest scientific techniques to inform preparation, planning and a revision to the building codes.
- More communities are now aware of the hazards they are exposed to and what to do in the event of a disaster due to the education materials and community engagement.
- Leveraging the seismic sensors in schools to teach students, and thus the broader community, about the risk of earthquakes in PNG.
- The uptake of the seismic parameters in new bridges being constructed by the Ministry of Works.
- Enhanced communication of hazards and risk through the PNG Geohazards website means the whole community can now more easily access the alerts and bulletins produced.