The quest to make the island a Dark Sky destination takes a step closer this month with workshops targeting those with a particular interest in setting up a business to look to the heavens.
Following successful workshops earlier this year by Dark Sky enthusiasts Richard and Gendie Somerville-Ryan, Niue Tourism is now following up with workshops by two people who operate a stargazing business on Great Barrier Island. Deborah Kilgalon and Hilde Hoven are owners of Good Heavens Dark Sky Experience are on the island to share their experience of those who have shown an interest in establishing a similar business.
Great Barrier Island is the first Dark Sky Sanctuary Island and Niue is looking to become the first island-country Dark Sky Sanctuary. To help achieve that status Richard and Gendie are back.
So how exactly do we become a Dark Sky Sanctuary? In very simplistic terms, we need to make sure that our island is not lit up like a Christmas tree and that the lights are illuminating the ground and not flashing all over the sky. Meantime while the team are working for Niue to become a Dark Sky Sanctuary, we can at least make a start by being a Dark Sky Destination. Here’s hoping for some dark times ahead.
Protection of Niue’s Resources
In partnership with the private sector, the government in the past week, is taking a close look at the technology available that can assist in the control and surveillance of Niue’s economic zone and near-shore coastal waters.
Tofia Niue and the Niue Ocean Wide project are combining resources with the Niue Ministry of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Infrastructure and other government agencies in a week long workshop to review progress on the compliance strategy and to trial some of the latest technology.
The Pacific Community [SPC], the Forum Fisheries Agency [FFA] and the CSIRO – the Australian Government research organisation – are all taking part. A New Zealand company, X-Craft is providing a rotary-wing and fixed-wing crafts for demonstration. The CSIRO will show participants the capabilities of a long range camera and hydrophones.
One of the organisers of the workshop, Brendon Pasisi of Niue Ocean Wide project said that the workshop is valuable not only for Niue but for other small island states who are looking at using the latest technology to monitor and protect their natural resources.
But before using the latest technology the government will need to ensure that the necessary legislations are in place. This is the area where the SPC and FFA can assist with advising the appropriate government Ministries on the provisions in the legislation and regulations.
Another area where remotely controlled craft can assist is in Search and Rescue. X-Craft was able to demonstrate the capability of an infrared or heat sensing camera.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the next step is for government to decide on the direction it will take in using the available technology.
Anti-corruption – government is hosting a team of two from the UN Anti-corruption Unit. There will be workshops with senior government officials and political leaders as well as a session with the island’s media. One grey area that had caused some concerns in the past is the distinction between a traditional gift and treating. By and large the island is relatively free of the type of blatant corruption that is often reported on by the regional media; the small size of the community does tend to act as a natural deterrent.
Civil Aviation – Experts say that our civil aviation legislation is hopelessly out of date, but not for long. Government has consultants reviewing the antiquated law, circa 1960s, to bring it in line with international standards. Talks are also continuing with New Zealand to provide assistance to re-seal the runway and make other improvements at Hanan International. It’s not known if the planned improvements will include the umbrella that barely passes as the Airport Terminal Building. A luggage carousel would be nice.
Polynesian Pulotu in Primary and Secondary Education – They came from all over the wider Auckland area to share their knowledge and their experience with their island-based counterparts. Led by Niuean Mr Karl Vasau, principal of Rowandale Primary in Manurewa, the team from NZ Pasifika Principals Association [NZPPA] are on a study tour ‘participating in and providing professional development’ for themselves and for educators on Niue. According to Karl, on their last day on Niue they will be taking part in a one day conference where there will be keynote addresses and workshops.
Risky behaviour – Local residents were aghast at the reckless behaviour of a recent visitor who needlessly exposed himself to danger when swells were high at Anaana Point lookout. A video clip on social media, shot by a visiting family on holiday, showed a person standing on the cliff top, metres away from the steep drop down to the reef, seemingly waiting for the next swell. With no fringing reef at the Point to act as a buffer, the south-westerly swells hitting the cliff can provide a spectacular spray that can reach high into the air. The catch is that there is also a huge volume of water that accompanies the spray. The video clip showed a swell breaking over the cliff, completely enveloping the person on the cliff-top. Luckily for him, he was still there when water receded. There are signs warning the public of possible danger.
Top Cop – the Niue Public Service Commission is looking for a suitable person to be the island’s leading law enforcement officer. The contract for the current Chief of Police Tony Edwards has ended. There are not too many on the island who qualify for the post, or indeed who are willing to take up the post. It is probably one of the most stressful and challenging post in a small community where family and personal connections are strong. It is one of the reasons why, for many years, the post was occupied by an officer recruited from New Zealand. Like all top posts in the Niue Public Service, the incumbent is free to re-apply.