Virtual design enables offshore funding for Rarotonga fire station

Rarotonga, with a population over 14,000 people, is the main centre of the Cook Islands. While there is a team of professional fire fighters at Rarotonga International Airport, the island’s three fire stations are all staffed by volunteers.

When a sponsorship opportunity arose for new equipment at one of Rarotonga’s fire stations, the Puaikura Fire Brigade Building, it was quickly apparent that the building would need to expand to store the new gear.

The issue was how to go about obtaining funding for the expansion, especially without any plans or design in mind. Puaikura Fire Chief Jason Moorfield immediately thought of his friend, Harrison Grierson’s Technical Manager High-Definition Surveying, Josh Mason.

“As soon as I got Jason’s call, I was pretty sure this was something that HG would consider doing as a pro bono project,” said Josh. “We’ve had a long relationship with the Pacific Islands, and I was confident we could assist. Really, the issue was how to provide a high-quality design and drawings that would satisfy demanding funders, without incurring major costs for HG.”

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Josh instructed a friend in Rarotonga with a drone how to fly around the existing fire station.  By processing the images the friend captured and sent to HG, a 3D model of the existing structure was built.  “We then discussed what was needed and wanted in terms of the extension, and we designed and modelled the extension for them, drawing up the plans.”

When Josh and his team found out that it was the Japanese Government who was being approached for funding, the decision was made to create a digital twin, with a short video walkthrough, even including people moving around and children playing at the adjacent school.  It was hoped that this, together with the professional design and 3D plans, would make it more easily understood by the Japanese decision-makers.  “We sometimes do this for our commercial clients,” says Josh.  “It’s a low-cost way to make visualising a project much easier.” 


Despite some issues that needed to be overcome regarding sending data to and from Rarotonga, the project was completed remotely from New Zealand, saving time and money. The funding of around $220,000 was approved by the Japanese Government and construction work should start later in 2023.

The new extension will ensure that the residents of Ara Tapu in the Avarua District will be safer, with newer and better equipment readily available to its volunteer firefighters. “Our work was greatly appreciated by the lovely people of Raro,” says Josh, adding it was nice to see HG people using their commercial skills for a good cause.

To visualise the project, HG created a digital twin with a short video walkthrough.

The project was completed remotely from New Zealand, saving time and money.