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A new transport strategy to increase Niue’s climate resilience

In this blog post, IMC’s Economics and Finance Senior Technical Director James Reeves provides an overview of the work IMC has carried out in the small Pacific island of Niue to increase the resilience of its transport sector to climate change.

Monday 23 April 2018, James Reeves

In May 2017, I had the pleasure to travel to Niue, which is the largest raised coral atoll in the Pacific and home to around 1,600 people. The island lies around three and a half hours flight from New Zealand, in the triangle created by Tonga, Samoa and Cook Islands.

Niue is vulnerable to climate change, which makes resilience of infrastructure, including transport, a priority.

That is why IMC worked with local officials and stakeholders to help them develop the first National Transport Strategy and Short-Term Action Plan. The project was funded by the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), a multi-agency organisation that provides technical assistance and project development support to the Pacific developing countries.

The new strategy, which was adopted by the Niue Parliament in September 2017, has now been published online along with the action plan (click here to read it).

Its main aim is to increase the resilience of Niue as a whole and particularly its lifeline transport systems and it will help the island to address five primary challenges:

  • The effects of climate change, particularly the increased occurrence of major storms. Niue’s infrastructure was badly damaged by Cyclone Heta in 2004 and it is regularly hit by tropical storms.
  • Isolation from key markets and supplies – help is a long way away. The size of the market and the costs of transportation mean that supplies are typically only delivered on a monthly cycle.
  • Limited financial resources – the ability of the government to raise revenues and to invest in duplicating infrastructure and providing backup equipment is minimal.
  • Scarce physical resources and infrastructure – there are key interdependencies between different infrastructure and equipment. So, for example, the airport cannot operate without fuel imported through the wharf, the crane is essential for wharf operation, but also for housebuilding. Moreover, the digger used at the quarry is also used to dig graves.
  • Limited human resources – many people in Niue have more than one job and many highly educated Niueans are resident overseas.

Niue’s main sources of revenue are tourism and agriculture, which are seasonal and limited. Tourists are transported to Niue, mainly from New Zealand, via three flights per week from Auckland. These flights also carry the many Niueans who travel to and from New Zealand, and essential medical and food supplies.

Niue 3
Aerial view of damage caused by the 2004 Cyclone Heta in Niue. Credit: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Key points of the new transport strategy

Covering all modes of transport, the National Transport Strategy and Short-Term Action Plan identifies investment and maintenance priorities for the next 10 years and provides a prioritised list of interventions. 

Key investments identified include strengthening and extension of the wharf, rehabilitation and extension of the airport, resurfacing of the main road network, surfacing of evacuation routes and roads serving key infrastructure, and replacement of essential equipment.

The next stage of development of the transport sector includes further strengthening key institutions, securing investment support from development partners, implementing new sources of revenue for transport, and improving maintenance and operating procedures to protect existing assets.

A key objective of the strategy is to help the government to prepare projects eligible for financial support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the world’s largest fund dedicated to the fight against climate change. In 2017, IMC became a GCF Observer and used this experience to help guide this process in Niue.

IMC’s assignment in Niue builds upon our expertise in small island infrastructure and my experience across the Pacific, which covers climate change and disaster resilience, infrastructure economics and finance, transport planning and institutional strengthening. In the Caribbean, for example, IMC is developing guidelines to help 19 Caribbean countries to incorporate climate change adaptation into road asset management systems.

If you would like to learn more about our capabilities in this field, get in touch!

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