Aitutaki is the fourth island to be mapped in this way by NES, after Mangaia in September 2016 and Mauke and Mitiaro, which were both mapped back to back last May.
The main benefits of this mapping for the Aitutaki community in particular include the ability to identify the wetland areas of the island, also ra’ui areas and areas of concern for migrating fish and bird species, says NES senior education officer Matthew Rima.
The three-dimensional models, which are constructed by NES officers in conjunction with the local community, can also be used for infrastructure planning, climate-change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity protection purposes, and the preservation of traditional knowledge.
Construction of Aitutaki’s model will involve the Aronga Mana, local schools and NGOs, as well as members of the wider community, and will take place at Ngapuariki Hall.
A special focus of Aitutaki’s model will be the lagoon, right down to charting the various different depths of the water.
“The lagoon will be the challenging part of this model,” said NES media officer Moana Tetauru. “Aitutaki will be the first island where we will be focussing on the various depths of the lagoon – that will be part of the lagoon management plan that’s being formulated.”
Tetauru is one of the three NES officers travelling to Aitutaki. They team is led by senior environment officer Elizabeth Munro and includes advisory and compliance officer Benjamin Maxwell, who will present the results of a wetlands assessment undertaken last December to the island council and community.
Next on the list for the 3D-model treatment is Atiu, which the NES plans to visit later this year. An exact date has yet to be confirmed.