The Pacific region is known to be one of the areas of the planet that is most exposed to disaster hazards and now must also cope with more frequent and more intense climate change events.Regular occurrences such as flooding, cyclones and drought are being amplified by the effects of climate change.
The Honourable Henry Puna, the Prime Minister of Cook Islands, has graced the opening. He spoke about his pleasure at having been invited to the STAR meeting and the annual meeting of the SPC's Applied Geoscience and Technology division here in Noumea. Since the start of the SOPAC, Cook Islands has benefited from its services as a member, and the country has had the pleasure of hosting its annual meeting three times. The Prime Minister who was invited also in his capacity as the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum thanked Dr. Russell Howorth for his outstanding services to the region and to the SOPAC division.
In his opening address to participants, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, stressed the importance of close relationships between SPC and member countries and territories. In doing so he reminded attendees that the conference room was named after Jacques Iékawé of New Caledonia, who was selected as Director-General in 1991 but died before he could take up the office. He noted the recommendation by the independent external review (IER) of SPC to focus its future reporting to results and benefits to members and commended the SOPAC divisional meeting agenda for the way it is organised to enable country by country reporting. He mentioned that future reporting to CRGA will adopt country by country approach noting that this will be welcomed by both SPC members and donors. He further noted that the IER recommended an increase in core funding to the organisation which if achieved will put SOPAC division and other divisions of SPC on a much better position to deliver a minimum level of core services to members on a sustainable basis.
The Director-General also announced that the new Director of the SOPAC division Mr. Michael Petterson, currently Professor of Geosciences at the University of Leicester, UK and will assume the role toward the end of January 2013. In making this announcement Dr Rodgers thanked Dr Russell Howorth, the current Director, for his service in guiding the previously independent organisation in its integration into SPC.
The Director of the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division, Russell Howorth, emphasised the strong involvement of the division in the Pacific, pointing out that it is currently undertaking no fewer than 47 projects. Twelve of these projects will be presented during this second SOPAC annual meeting. Some are local projects, such as those taking place in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia or on Lifuka Island in Tonga, but some, such as the deep sea minerals project, are active across the region.
The SPC Applied Geoscience and Technology Division is recognised as a leading agency in its field and enjoys an excellent reputation among Pacific Community member countries.
This meeting and its extensive discussions will enable member countries to meet and exchange views on the Division's work after hearing presentations on the broad range of activities conducted in various fields and to provide feedback on projects of interest to them.
In addition to SPC member countries, this meeting is also being attended by many scientists, further broadening the range of views expressed and providing guidance for future activities in the Pacific region.