Urban planner heads to island nation of Kiribati

Shifani Sood

Urban planner Shifani Sood faces special challenges as she moves to Kiribati next month to take up a role as an urban planning adviser.

She will leave her job at NZ Transport Authority to take the position for a year. She is also a member of the NZ Property Institute.

Kiribati is a series of small islands connected by causeways located in a remote Pacific atoll and subject to flooding on the next king tide.

Ms Sood is taking the post as part of a year-long Volunteer Service Abroad assignment.

She is busy raising funds for VSA and her upcoming adventure and says she does not anticipate lying on beaches or cocktails by the pool. 

There will be a choice between boiled water or coconut water to drink in year round average temperature of around 31 degrees celsius. 

And most of the Tarawa Lagoon is not suitable for swimming. 

Food is another issue. Without locally produced fruit and vegetables the diet is largely swamp taro, coconut, fish, sea cucumber and bananas if the supply boat arrives. 

Kiribati is made up of 32 atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean four hours’ flight from Fiji. It has a population of around 100,000. 

Ms Sood will be based in the capital, South Tarawa, on an atoll about 1km wide, 28km long and 3m high at its highest point. 

Tarawa is the only part of Kiribati considered an urban housing area where half the population lives. Housing and sanitation are poor.

Ms Sood will work for the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Development helping the Kiribati capital develop in a more efficient way.

She is spending time with Christchurch’s Kiribati community in preparation for her journey.

Two websites have been set up to allow people to share Ms Sood’s experience: www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/shifanisood and http://shifanisood.wordpress.com/

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