Speech by Sue Gordon to 6th Annual GIS Senior Executive Summit

17 March 2010

Sue Gordon, LINZ General Manager, Strategic Development and Support, spoke at the 6th annual GIS Senior Executive Summit on 9 March 2010. The summit brings together industry leaders from across the private and public sectors.

Sue focused on New Zealand's geospatial sector, in particular:

  • LINZ's role in geospatial information and what LINZ has achieved so far
  • the New Zealand Geospatial Office
  • the need for government and private sector to work together
  • how LINZ is supporting GIS capability and research.

The Minister for Land Information, the Hon Minister Williamson, opened the summit. He spoke broadly about geospatial information as one of the key future trends and pointed out its economic benefit to New Zealand. His speech will be made available at the Beehive website.

Sue's speech is provided below.


Thank you for that introduction; it is a pleasure to be here.

As the Honourable Minister Williamson says, there are many opportunities to use geospatial information and technology to New Zealand’s economic, social and cultural advantage.

The power and potential of spatial information is one of the key reasons I joined LINZ eight months ago. Spatial information is everywhere, transforming our online and in-person experiences, our business models, and our ability to change the world. That’s why events like this gathering today are so important.

As a group of leaders from both the public and private sectors, we are all faced with the challenge of working more effectively. Spatial information can help address this and other challenges we face.

As a newcomer to the sector I am continually impressed by the potential of spatial information. And by the enthusiasm of those working in the sector. My sense is that great work has – and continues to be – done and that through a stronger sense of collective action the possibilities are even more immense. In terms of conceiving these future possibilities I am looking forward to Jack Dangermond’s keynote on ‘designing our future’.

Building on our Minister’s address, my task today is:

  • to outline how we’re delivering on the activities within the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy and
  • to suggest some ideas for furthering the geospatial agenda for you to consider as leaders and influencers in your own organisations.

You will hear me talk about Land Information New Zealand’s (LINZ) role in two distinct areas:

  • Firstly – in our leadership and coordination role with the geospatial strategy, and
  • Secondly – in our operational role as holders of nationally significant spatial data.

I will talk about these in the context of the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy as this provides a sound framework for action.

The New Zealand Geospatial Strategy outlines the vision for spatial information in New Zealand. The strategy itself is centred on the broad areas of:

  • governance
  • data
  • access and interoperability.

In addition, we also believe there is important work to be done around capability and research.

These areas can be thought of as the foundations for spatial data infrastructure for New Zealand. They form the overarching framework that helps connect providers and users of spatial information.

The first area I am going to speak to is governance.


LINZ chief executive Colin MacDonald chairs a group of chief executives from central and local government who are active supporters of government’s work in this area. The Geospatial Executives Group recognises that we need a coordinated approach and is actively looking for ways to support the work program. This wide support and mandate from senior executives is an important foundation for our leadership and coordination role because like much in life, the best results are achieved when we work together.

Another important part of our leadership role is the effective operation of the New Zealand Geospatial Office, set up to coordinate activity identified by the strategy.

Within LINZ, we are shifting more resources into this group and aligning these with the overall action framework. There are now dedicated roles to coordinate spatial information standards, lead data development projects, coordinate research and capability initiatives and improve communication across the geospatial community.

We’ve recently welcomed Kevin Sweeney from the United States to take up the role of Geospatial Custodian. Kevin has 16 years of both managerial and technical geospatial experience in the public, private and academic sectors in his native US.

To encourage a more coordinated approach, Kevin will be chairing a group of senior managers whose role is to steer the work program – making sure it has adequate resources and aligns well with sector priorities.

The strategic use of geospatial information to support sector and regional priorities is something that needs to be better articulated. There are many ways in which spatial information can make a greater contribution to high-priority areas, such as intelligent infrastructure design and management. So within the Geospatial Office we are continually looking for ways to better “tell and show” the power of spatial.

Because spatial information and technology cuts across so many sectors, a major challenge is to create effective coordination and participation. This is particularly important for local government and industry, which have a wealth of information and expertise. Local government is currently represented at chief executive level on the governance group through the Auckland Regional Council. We are looking at how we can create further opportunities for local and regional government to significantly contribute to central government activities in this area.

It’s almost twelve months now since the Spatial Industries Business Association was formally established in New Zealand. SIBA is crucial in allowing our spatial industries to have a clear, strong voice. We are excited that we are working with SIBA on both strategic and operational issues and we look forward to building on these relationships and developing a joint agenda.

As leaders in your own organisations, I’d like to encourage you to consider how your agency or sector might get involved. Please feel free to talk with us about this.

The next area I will cover is data.


A significant opportunity exists in how well data is accessed and shared. The core of the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy is about better ways of finding and using nationally important data. It’s all very well having a strategy but strategies must be put into action.

A work program to drive this forward has been endorsed and resources are being moved to more quickly execute that program. There are two distinct elements to this:

  1. Work to drive a more consistent approach to data publishing for all holders of spatial data and
  2. Work that focuses on priority datasets themselves, in terms of gaps and quality issues.

Data acquisition is another area where spatial information managers can work together more. Smarter ways of acquiring data will help to create the efficiencies we all know exist.

To help create a more consistent approach to publishing data, we have recently developed guides for agencies around web services - these are available from the New Zealand Geospatial Office.

Also, in response to feedback from the wider sector, LINZ is moving ahead on improving the quality and accessibility of our own data. We have projects underway to improve the accuracy of the cadastre in rural areas and we are establishing web services of some of our data. While an important driver for our organisation will always be to ensure our data is authoritative, we understand that when it comes to interaction, it is the user who determines utility.

Bearing this in mind, LINZ now has customer research and a refresh of our customer strategy underway. These will help shape the longer term approach we take to our products and services. Thank you to those of you that completed the recent survey on LINZ bulk data – we really appreciate your input.

The third area is access and interoperability.

Access & interoperability

As you all know, metadata is critical to find and access information. We are working to get the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council metadata profile into “recommended” status under the electronic government interoperability framework (eGIF). We will publish a paper on this next month.

Technology, standards, policies and culture are evolving rapidly in the area of information management. So:

  • what might this mean for all of our organisations?
  • what does a trend towards more ‘open’ data mean for our capabilities, strategies and business models?
  • what does it mean for each of us to acquire and manage our own data?

The guides I mentioned earlier provide some direction. However this is a topic we all need to actively engage in and shape. As organisations make data available in a more consistent way, the incremental benefit to each organisation may seem small but the overall effect is significant – that is where the efficiencies are created.

The work that Honourable Minister Williamson mentioned in relation to data re-use is further evidence of the government’s drive to make data more accessible. The Government Open Access Licensing (GOAL) framework is an important component in this. I encourage you to visit the State Services Commission website so you can see what this might mean for your organisation.

The final two elements of the framework involve capability and research.

Capability & research

Last month, the group overseeing the geospatial strategy agreed that capability building is a critical priority. At LINZ we’ve identified three types of intervention we see as priorities for the sector. They are:

  1. influencing labour market strategy
  2. improving the skills and capability of government employees, and
  3. supporting emerging initiatives in the education system.

As an employer, LINZ is working with the Survey and Spatial Sciences Institute to develop an accreditation framework that will increase GIS professionalism within our organisation. This complements similar work underway in Department of Conservation. Wouldn’t it be great if this could be broadened to other departments!

I invite you to consider the main capability issues in your own organisation and see what use you can make of the work already underway in this area.

It is more important than ever to ensure New Zealand has strong research and development around spatial information and technology. LINZ is establishing a presence in New Zealand for the highly successful Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, based in Australia. This model draws together talent and ideas from all sectors on applied projects and we look forward to New Zealand entities taking part in this.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate that we welcome the opportunity to talk with you more about these topics - and what we might do to help you succeed. We have several senior staff from LINZ here today. Please feel free to come and speak with us.

You can also visit www.geospatial.govt.nz for more information on these initiatives.

So to sum up:

  • important work is underway across sectors to realise the potential of spatial information and technology
  • there are many opportunities for each of us to make a difference
  • if we work together across sectors, collectively we can create an effective spatial data infrastructure for New Zealand and this will have a great impact long-term
  • talk with us about the opportunities you see and how we might be able to help you to succeed.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here and I look forward to talking with you as the afternoon progresses.

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