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Surveying’s Samoan Connections

Wednesday 3 April 2019 9:11pm

Geodes-image
Geodes Laufanuaosamoa Mefiposeta Maualaivao from Samoa is following in his mother's footsteps and studying surveying at Otago.

A name can say a lot, especially one as long and beautiful as surveying student’s Geodes Laufanuaosamoa Mefiposeta Maualaivao.

Geodes is conspicuously close to Geodesy, a common surveying term referencing the science of accurately measuring the Earth's geometric shape and orientation in space.

“My Mum Eseta first heard about surveying from the Director of the Lands and Survey Department who at the time was the only other Samoan to have studied Surveying at Otago,” Mr Maualaivao says.

"Mum told us stories from when we lived here and we went back to places like the kindergarten, the house where we lived, and the School of Surveying where there is a photo of her on the wall."

It was the attraction to an outdoor job, and the fact that no other Samoan females had studied surveying, that led Eseta to gain a Certificate in Land Surveying from Unitec in Auckland.

“The use of stars in surveying must have fascinated her because she named my older brother Cosmos and me Geodes.”

Six months after Geodes was born, Eseta again left Samoa with her family in tow to study at Otago’s School of Surveying.

Mr Maualaivao can only recollect small details about his early life in Dunedin such as the Leith River and its ducks beside the University kindergarten he attended.

After completing her degree at the end of 2001, Eseta and the family returned to Samoa and Eseta became the country’s first female surveyor where she still works today with just a handful of other registered surveyors.

While on holiday in New Zealand in 2012, the family visited Dunedin and some of the places that had been part of their lives for three years.

“Mum told us stories from when we lived here and we went back to places like the kindergarten, the house where we lived, and the School of Surveying where there is a photo of her on the wall.”

However, even then Geodes didn’t consider surveying as a potential career.

“I actually didn’t even know what surveying was, until I went to see Mum at her work and saw her in action,” Mr Maualaivao recalls.

“Even today when I tell people I am studying surveying, some think I hand out surveys for people to answer!”

However it was during his foundation year at the University of Samoa that a seminar changed his outlook altogether, taken by none other than his Mum and the only other female surveyor in Samoa.

"They told us how there are few surveyors in Samoa and that the country needs them."

“They told us how there are few surveyors in Samoa and that the country needs them.”

So following in his Mum’s footsteps, in 2017 Mr Maualaivao jumped on a plane bound for Dunedin to start surveying, and is now in his third year of studies.

“At the moment in geodetic surveying we are learning about observations using the stars,” he says.

“I remember Mum telling me about it but I never understood it, but now here I am learning about it which is pretty cool.”

Even though he loves returning to Samoa during the holidays to see his family, Mr Maualaivao is enjoying his time in Dunedin.

“I really like the size of the city and wandering through the Botanic Gardens, which was a place we spent a lot of time when I was a toddler.”

He says his Mum never pressured him to do surveying, but she is excited he has chosen to study a field that both his parents are passionate about.

And true to his second name Laufanuaosamoa meaning the ‘landscape of Samoa’, it's a country that at the end of his studies will eventually call him home.