Planning for climate change in the Cook Islands

Led by Principal Coastal Engineer Matt Blacka, WRL undertook a project spanning 8 months in Avarua, the main town of Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The project was undertaken for the Climate Change Cook Islands division within the Office of the Prime Minister, and was funded under the Pacific Adaptation Strategy Assistance Program (PASAP) by the Australian Government.

Avarua lies on the cyclone prone north coast of Rarotonga, and is the administrative, economic and tourism hub of the Cook Islands. Within the study area are most government offices, the international airport, the main fuel stores, and the Avatiu harbour which processes all incoming freight to Rarotonga and the other Cook Islands. Previous cyclones impacting the study area, including the unprecedented five cyclones early in 2005, have caused significant damage to buildings and threatened infrastructure.

Over the study period WRL undertook a range of activities including topographic and bathymetric data collection, analysis of previous cyclone events and damage, analysis and predictions of wave processes and inundation during extreme events, including consideration of the effects of climate change on risk.

One of the outcomes of the project was the following video made by the Pacific Adaptation Strategy Assistance Program; targeted at Pacific-wide decision makers, development agencies, and those interested to find out more about adapting to climate change.

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