Vision & Feasibility Master Plan in support of the Higher Ground Initiative

Project details





Project Timeframe

September 2021 - August 2022

Key Services

Governance, Policy & Institutional Strengthening

Gender, Community & Inclusion

Land Administration

Compounded by the irreversible effects of phosphate mining and the imminent threat of sea level rise a Government initiative, the Higher Ground Initiative (HGI) attempts to support future sustainability, sovereignty, and safety for its citizens. The initial brief is an ambitious plan for the relocation of its people, its assets, and its communities to higher ground on the island of Nauru.

This project will develop the master planning and related design and delivery services needed to support the priorities of the Higher Ground Initiative (HGI). HGI has been established as a generational undertaking, critical to the long-term survival and viability of Nauru, which seeks a managed migration of people and infrastructure to the Island’s higher elevation inland, commonly known as ‘Topside’. HGI seeks to mobilize the country around a collective national vision that fundamentally changes the development trajectory of the country for the better by (1) addressing its inherent vulnerability to climate change, (2) restoring balance between the economic development and protection of the natural environment, and (3) building a foundation for a healthier and more prosperous population in the future.

The project will develop a vision and feasibility master plan for the whole island, but with a particular focus on one Government-owned site prioritized for rehabilitation, Land Portion 230. The island nation has insufficient mapping of the existing conditions of its developable land, and needs planning for community structure, connectivity means, public realm amenities, and architectural morphology and the legal and institutional requirements to support the visioning process.

In support of the Higher Ground Initiative the LEI team provides support and core technical assistance to the project under the themes of land tenure and social safeguarding.

Customary land comprises more than 90% of Nauru’s area, and there are limited legal frameworks and institutional capacity for a systematic transformation of land rehabilitation. The governance of land at present largely relies on family arrangements and customary approvals of transferring land and housing entitlements. There are a number of opportunities for reviewing and supporting a more systematised approach to a land tenure system for Nauru, so that it underpins the proposed master plan and ultimately meets the needs and desires of Nauru’s population.

LEI is completing a land administration and tenure study to identify and report on key issues and challenges with the existing land administrative system – noting its past focus was primarily on enabling leases for mining access and infrastructure development.

LEI will respond to a request by the Government of Nauru to provide guidance on land transfers and conveyancing, and on tenure options for pro-poor housing. LEI will develop guidance addressing these areas, drawing on regional case studies. From these, and in consultation with key government and community stakeholders, the team will co-develop an Action and Engagement Plan for land administration in support of the Master Plan and HGI.

Given the Higher Ground Initiative vision for sustainable urban development – that, in the face of climate change, will likely see the vast majority of homes and critical infrastructure relocated away from vulnerable coastal locations, there is a need for the project to identify areas of social safeguarding concern from the outset.

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