Planners on Adventure

PHOTO: Susan Rawles and Finbar Kiddle

Wellington Planners/NZPI Members Susan Rawles and Finbar Kiddle are about to take their planning and development skills abroad when they move to Solomon Islands in July. The couple have secured positions as planners based in Honiara, through Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) ...

Susan will be working as a planner at the Honiara City Council, while Finbar will be working at the Guadalcanal Provincial Government. The focus of the roles is to build capacity with the local planning teams.

Honiara City has an estimated population of 60,000 and covers an area similar to Nelson. There is no official census or population data, and areas of informal housing make it difficult to be certain about the number of people residing there. The city faces a number of interesting planning issues, including urban growth beyond the serviced city boundary, traffic congestion, customary land ownership, the prevalence of informal settlements and susceptibility to flood hazards.

Honiara was the base for the American troops stationed in the Solomon Islands during World War II and was not originally intended as a city. During the war, the original capital of Tulagi was destroyed by air raids, and as the American troops had built infrastructure such as roads and stormwater systems, Honiara quickly became the country’s largest urban center.

Susan will be working closely with the Honiara City Council and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey to develop and implement the Honiara City Local Planning Scheme and formulate a Greater Honiara City Development Strategy. A key element of this is formulating an overall settlement scheme to identify areas for housing development and targeted service provision.

Honiara has one key arterial road running the length of the city. This road regularly becomes congested, resulting in long delays. Developing alternative routes and managing traffic congestion will also form part of Susan’s role.

Although the city is growing and there is a shortage of housing and services, 80% of the Solomon Islands population lives rurally.

While Susan’s role focuses on the City of Honiara, Finbar’s role with the Guadalcanal Provincial Government covers the remainder of the capital island, including remote rural areas such as the Weather Coast. There are similarities in the couple’s work, particularly concerning the expansion of the city into the Guadalcanal Province, where land is predominantly under customary ownership. In addition to these urban issues, Finbar will be focusing on strengthening the capacity of the Guadalcanal Provincial Government to effectively manage environmental, resource and land issues in the province. This will include developing effective land use policies and a system for recording information relating to resources and land use.

Another challenge for the couple will be learning Solomon Islands pidgin. There are 71 different living languages throughout Solomon Islands, with Solomon Islands pidgin being the most widely spoken language. English is also commonly spoken within the urban areas. Nevertheless, VSA will provide language lessons so, in time, they will be able to converse in pidgin.

As well as undertaking their assignments, the couple plan to explore the islands and beaches. They will make the most of the warm conditions to dive the many artificial reefs created by WWII wrecks.

Susan and Finbar have been undertaking fundraising for VSA to support the work they do sending talented Kiwis to the Pacific. To make a donation go to http://www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/FinbarandSusan/.

For more information about VSA and to view their current vacancies, see the VSA website www.vsa.org.nz
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To follow Susan and Finbar’s journey, subscribe to the following blog: www.honiarahustle.wordpress.com.