Published on 12th December 2016
In Kiribati, where overcrowding and rising sea levels are pressing issues, the ability to map and mark land is serious business.
Aaron Hick is volunteering there as a Land Surveyor Trainer with the Ministry of Environment Lands and Agriculture Development.
"Land is crucial to people in Kiribati, and the impacts of sea level rise, coastal erosion and overcrowding are making already scarce land resources even more in demand. Surveying is essential to help to reduce conflicts by understanding where property boundaries are," he says.
"Surveying is also very important in terms of overcrowding. There’s a lot of people moving from the outer islands to South Tarawa for more perceived opportunities and that’s putting a real strain on the limited land,” he says, “and being able to know what you own or lease is a big deal."
"We make sure people can be confident where boundaries are."
By "we" Aaron means the survey team who are based on Tarawa and Kiritimati Islands. On top of their day-to-day work, six staff are studying for surveying diplomas via the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic - a project initiated by the previous VSA volunteer to the ministry, John Hermann.
One student, Christina Teinaby, says the course is a part of her desire to help her nation. "I will be able to support the other survey team members, share what I have learnt with other staff and apply it in all survey work to help our country for the future."
Another, Tunete Bauira, is enthusiastic about upskilling.
"The skills and knowledge that I learn from the New Zealand surveying diploma will apply in my daily fieldwork to enrich my performance, improve the accuracy level and make it to the international standard."
For Aaron, that enthusiasm is one of the great parts of his experience in Kiribati.
"They’re really keen to learn, [they] pick things up really quickly, and the opportunities they have can be quite limited so they do really well when opportunities come along. They really grab that with both hands," he says.
"They’ve been very welcoming and warm."