VSA volunteer Hana Kashkari is working as the spatial data management coordinator at the Marae Moana Coordination Office within the Office of the Prime Minister.
Marine spatial planning is a process that brings together multiple users of the ocean – including those from energy, industry, government, conservation and recreation sectors – to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources sustainably.
Kashkari says there are several considerations when developing a marine spatial plan.
“A marine spatial plan should take into account, amongst other things; traditional knowledge, Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs), marine biodiversity, existing areas of human activities, cultural heritage areas, climate change impacts and future demands for marine space.
“Marine spatial plans will help the Cook Islands to better use the marine space without harming it and whilst avoiding conflicts amongst users,” Kashkari explains.
Kashkari says that over the next couple of years a National Marae Moana Spatial Plan will be developed for the entire Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.
In order for this plan to be made, Kashkari says spatial data is required from several different government agencies.
“It is important that spatial data across government is well-managed so that data can be easily accessed and is reliable,” she says.
To achieve this, Kashkari is working to help improve spatial data sharing across government.
Meetings are being held with Geographical Information System (GIS) users. GIS is a computer-based system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage and present all types of spatial data.
In the GIS user meetings, problems are discussed, solutions reached, and collaborative ways forward are determined.
Marino Wichman, data manager for the Ministry of Marine Resources, says that “ensuring data reliability and accuracy is an important aspect for geospatial practitioners, and is a difficult task in the Cook Islands. This is considering the various data standards used across government agencies and the private sector”.
Wichman says Kashkari has been instrumental in pushing data standards forward.
“This is one aspect the GIS user group is working to overcome, with universal standards which can be used across all sectors,” adds Wichman.