Australian engineers supporting Fiji rebuild
The village of Koroipita in north-west Fiji emerged from Cyclone Winston unscathed due to its advanced design and engineering. Now, the village is expanding and aims to provide a design model to be replicated over Fiji and the Pacific.
Fiji is only just beginning to rebuild after the devastation of Category 5 Cyclone Winston in February 2016, with many houses remaining unoccupied and public buildings still without roofs, particularly along the country’s north coast.
The village of Koroipita managed to withstand the impacts of the cyclone due to the design and construction of its houses, which were designed by Australian engineers John Yalden and Monica George, as part of a project created by Peter Drysdale.
Investors, NZaid, now aim to use this innovation in other parts of the country to protect against future events.
Surveyors and engineers at Taylors have recently returned from Fiji where they took part in a project to support an expansion of the village. Employees from Taylors were given the opportunity to prepare a Master Plan, finalise the design of a new multi-purpose court and teach local workers how to use key survey equipment that will help them in the last stage of the village’s construction.
Taylors Operations Manager – Engineering and Project Management, John Yalden, who was one of the engineers who initially designed the houses at Koroipita, took part in the recent project.
“It’s incredible that not only did this village withstand the cyclone and provide shelter for its residents, but now it’s continuing to innovate and increase amenities for locals,” Mr Yalden said.
“Working on this project is not only part of Taylors’ social responsibility objectives, but it’s also providing opportunities for our surveyors and engineers to get an experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
Mr Yalden said the expansion of Koroipita would include:
- 20–30 new homes
- A new community centre to help residents learn new skills and support them in finding employment
- A new rugby field
- A botanical zone to allow new vegetation
- A nursery to enable the village to grow plants that can be sold to generate income
- A plantation for firewood, for residents who don’t have access to gas for cooking
- A new system for the treatment of wastewater
- A multi-purpose court for recreation purposes
One of the major components of the recent project involved capacity building, where surveyors and engineers from Taylors taught locals how to use survey instruments and associated software that will help them undertake feature surveys and set-out works over the next few years.
“The people we trained had no survey experience, but they were very enthusiastic about gaining new skills from trained surveyors who have been working in the industry for years,” Mr Yalden said.
“It was very hands-on as we trained them in the field and taught them how to use survey equipment and easily upload and download data, which previously they were doing manually.”
Taylors Civil Engineer, Nic Green, accompanied Mr Yalden and Taylors Surveyor Paul Munoz on the project and said the opportunity to go to Fiji and work in Koroipita had been an amazing experience that you didn’t see with most engineering consultancies.
“As an engineer, I got a lot out of the project, not only learning new skills but also experiencing the culture and seeing how engineering and our services were applied in other countries,” Mr Green said.
“In Australia we have such complex and established routines and procedures, but in Fiji there’s a lack of skills and resources, and the climate and soil is different, so the work we do there is completely different to what I experience day-to-day in Australia.
“We had to go back to the basic first principles of engineering, which we don’t usually do because there’s so much technology available, but it really makes you think about what you’re doing and come up with creative solutions.”
Mr Green said while the project had been challenging, it was rewarding being able to support a village following the devastation of the cyclone.
“It was challenging because of the heat, the long days, the language barriers and just seeing the disrepair in some parts of the region, but through Taylors I’ve been able to be a part of a project that wouldn’t normally be available to engineers,” Mr Green said.
Over the coming months, Taylors engineers, including new graduate employees, will be given the opportunity to work on the Koroipita Master Plan, prepare a servicing report, and assist with engineering issues for the new stage of the village.
A team will then return to Fiji in 2017 to monitor how the engineering has been implemented and create another opportunity for surveyors and engineers to work on the project.