NZ Prime Minister launches construction of Australian-led water and sanitation program with experts in Fiji

New Zealand Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern.

Professor Rebekah Brown addresses New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Fiji's Minister for Housing, Local Government and Community Development, Premila Kumar, and delegates.

New Zealand Prime Minister the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern has officially launched construction of a ground-breaking Australian-led program to improve water and sanitation for more than 3,000 people living in informal settlements in Fiji.

Ms Ardern today visited the settlement of Tamavua-i-Wai in Suva, where the local community is implementing the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program, led by Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute and a global consortium of partners.

Ms Ardern met with community leaders to learn how the program will improve water and sanitation and benefit the health and wellbeing of the community, before conducting the official sod-turning.

The visit was part of the Prime Minister’s bilateral trip to Fiji. She was joined by Fiji’s Minister for Housing, Local Government and Community Development, the Hon Premila Kumar, and also met with members of the RISE team.

RISE aims to address the poor health and wellbeing of informal settlements across the globe caused by environmental exposure to pathogens, pollutants and disease vectors in water, food, air and soil.

By working with communities, governments, local leaders and partner institutions, RISE designs location-specific solutions that integrate green infrastructure to strengthen the whole-of-life water and sanitation cycle.

The New Zealand Government has pledged NZ$3 million to the program over three years, funding civil works upgrades for six informal settlements in the Greater Suva Area.

The construction areas at Tamavua-i-Wai were identified during collaborative workshops where communities worked with RISE to plan infrastructure based on their unique needs and use of space.

Green technologies including wetlands, biofiltration gardens and ‘smart’ pressure sewers will be built into buildings and landscapes, as well as streets, sewers and stormwater infrastructure.

New Zealand’s injection adds to foundational funding provided by the Wellcome Trust for the research components of RISE, and the Asian Development Bank, which is supporting the infrastructure components. Construction in Fiji is co-funded by New Zealand and the Government of Fiji, contributing to broader policy work to make quality affordable housing available to all Fijians.

RISE Program Director and Senior Vice-Provost and Vice-Provost (Research) at Monash University, Professor Rebekah Brown, was delighted to see New Zealand’s hands-on support for the project.

“RISE – as a radically new way of cleaning up the environment to improve people’s health – demands bold partnerships that drive solutions to meet the challenge of the task at hand,” Professor Brown said.

“Our ambitious program is an innovative vehicle for governments and other stakeholders to come together, to provide tangible health and sanitation benefits for people living in our neighbouring countries in the Pacific.”

Construction at Tamavua-i-Wai will continue into the year, and the RISE team will soon commence co-design (designing with communities) for infrastructure with the first six communities in the earlier-phase intervention group.

Read more about this outstanding program on the RISE website.

ABOUT RISE

RISE is led by Monash University, which is Australia’s largest university and a member of the ‘Group of Eight’. RISE incorporates diverse expertise from across the University, including seven faculties: Art, Design and Architecture (MADA); Science; Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (MNHS); Engineering; Business and Economics; and Law, as well as global expertise across government, industry and non-profits.

RISE is anchored within the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI). As one of the leading research and education institutes for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region, MSDI is driven to find real solutions to some of the most significant challenges facing our world today. MSDI provides a cross-faculty, interdisciplinary platform to bring diverse partners together to collaborate, to educate, to take action — and to make a real difference.