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Tonga receives high-tech data from NZ underwater survey of main islands

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand High Commissioner in Tonga HE Ms Tiffany Babington has today delivered a massive thirty thousand gigabytes of data featuring never-before-seen images of the undersea world around Tonga to the Tongan Government.

The hydrographic surveys, undertaken as part of the Pacific Regional Navigation Initiative (PRNI) between Pacific governments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) were carried out by marine survey company iXblue between November 2017 and December 2018.

The surveys were primarily undertaken in order to update Tonga’s nautical charts to improve navigation safety and to assist the expansion of Tonga’s shipping and tourism industries.

Data gathered will also support marine research and can be used to model the effects of sea level rise and flooding, and better understand the marine habitat.

Ms Babington said the data would provide Tonga with "modern, accurate and up-to-date charts to improve navigation safety, and build Tonga’s marine economy."

LINZ designed the surveys to take advantage of innovative technologies using satellites, planes, lasers and autonomous technology to measure Tonga’s clear and pristine tropical waters.

The data gathered shows previously uncharted rocks and reefs along with a number of interesting geological features including a small underwater volcano.

LINZ is now beginning work to update Tonga’s existing nautical charts and produce six new charts covering the Ha’apai Group, Nuku’alofa, ‘Eua, Tofua and Kao.

These are expected to be available from March 2020.

New Zealand, through LINZ, is responsible under international conventions for the production and maintenance of nautical charts for the Kingdom of Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, Cook Islands and Samoa.

Since the PRNI began in 2015 hydrographic surveys have already been completed in Niue and Tonga and will be underway in Samoa in late 2019.

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