Speech by Colin MacDonald to the spatial@gov Conference

18 October 2010

LINZ Chief Executive Colin MacDonald spoke at the spatial@gov Conference in Canberra, Australia on 6 October.

Colin focused on LINZ's progress in geospatial leadership and its commitment to championing the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy, as well as work flowing from this commitment and opportunities to be seized in New Zealand and Trans-Tasman.

The conference had an overall theme of ‘location as an enabler for government business’, and covered issues such as government 2.0, social inclusion, smart infrastructure, water resources, defence, and Earth observation.

A summary of Colin's speech is provided below, and you can download a copy of the accompanying presentation (PDF 705KB).

Visit the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy website to read a blog from Colin about the conference.

Summary of Colin MacDonald’s speech to the spatial@gov conference

Thanks for that introduction and for the invitation to address the spatial@gov conference again. I really enjoyed presenting and meeting people at the very successful first spatial@gov in June last year.

I welcome the chance to return and update you on what is happening spatially from a New Zealand perspective.


My story today has three parts:

  • some brief context about the activities of Land Information New Zealand
  • discussion about a Step Change where LINZ has made a real commitment to championing the NZ Geospatial Strategy
  • work flowing from this commitment and opportunities to be seized both in NZ and Trans-Tasman.

LINZ Core Activities

My department, Land Information New Zealand, has a very wide range of core activities including:

  • maintaining the national geodetic network (LINZ geodetic staff have been working recently to help assess movement related to the 7.1 scale earthquake in the Canterbury region which happened just over a month ago - in some places there is around 3 metres horizontal displacement)
  • ensuring a world class online land survey and title transaction system – Landonline
  • topographical mapping
  • hydrographic charting, including responsibility for a wide area of Pacific and Antarctic waters
  • maintenance of administrative boundaries for statistical and electoral purposes
  • geographic name administration
  • administering Crown Land comprising around 10% of NZ land
  • significant work helping with land aspects of Treaty Settlement Claims for Maori
  • statutory responsibilities for standards relating to survey, titles and valuation
  • Overseas Investment Office (assessing overseas applications to purchase land).

All the above core activities have some spatial connection. I want to turn now to this pervasive spatial linkage across not only LINZ activities but across other central and local government and wider geospatial community activities. LINZ has a coordinating role related to this through the NZ Geospatial Strategy and I will update you now regarding a Step Change in LINZ’s approach to the Strategy.

Step Change: drivers

LINZ’s Statement of Intent for the period 2010 to 2013 was tabled in Parliament in May this year.

This year’s Statement of Intent sees a re-focusing of strategic priorities for LINZ over the next 3 years.

In his foreword in the document, the Minister for Land Information states that one of his three priorities for the Lands portfolio is to unleash the potential of geospatial information for economic growth.

In turn, as a means of achieving this Ministerial priority, LINZ has been deliberately positioned in the Statement of Intent to champion the NZ Geospatial Strategy across government and the geospatial community.

Step Change: Why?

The strategic direction in this year’s Statement of Intent is a Step Change for LINZ. So why did it happen?

  • In short, the business reasons stack up for the Minister. He has seized on the opportunities around the use of spatial information to help address the priority issue for his government (as it is for many governments around the world) - how to stimulate economic growth in a period of recovery from the impact of the global economic crisis.
  • The Minister has engaged with spatial issues many times over the last year:
    • In August 2009 he spoke at the launch of the report on Spatial Information in the New Zealand Economy. Senator Lundy from Australia also spoke at this launch. Both politicians support the evidence shown in this report and a similar one for Australia – that significant opportunities exist to increase economic growth from further use of spatial information by reducing barriers to the use of such information. The fact that the Spatial Information Business Association (SIBA) worked with the government sector on the launch of the report was also important as it showed the Minister that the private and government sectors are beginning to collaborate on important spatial issues.
    • In November last year the Minister spoke at the NZ ESRI GIS User Group conference. Earlier this year he also spoke at the annual GIS Senior Executives Summit in Wellington. In July he travelled to speak at the 2010 ESRI International User Conference in California where the NZ Ministry for the Environment received a special achievement award for its Land Use and Carbon Analysis System.

So we have a Minister who wants action to address barriers to using spatial information for economic growth – barriers such as access to information. This didn’t happen by chance however. I am Chair of the Geospatial Executives’ Group and we recognised that making the business case for spatial information through the economics report was absolutely key to ensuring meaningful political engagement and action. The Minister’s understanding aligns very well with the theme for this spatial@gov conference – Location as an Enabler for Government Business.

The Minister’s engagement has in turn has led to his department, LINZ, giving priority to championing the Geospatial Strategy. Since the Strategy was launched in 2007 the Geospatial Office in LINZ has been charged with coordinating its implementation but with limited resources. LINZ is now committing additional resources to the Office. This will increase momentum to achieve the Strategy’s four goals - governance, data, access and interoperability. Effective progress on these will go a long way to dealing with the barriers identified in the economics report.

New Zealand Geospatial Office Work Programme

The Geospatial Office work programme can be seen now as a series of phases:

  • Year 1, the establishment phase (this phase has already seen the appointment of a smaller and more committed Geospatial Executives Group of which I am Chair, and similarly the appointment of a revised Geospatial Steering Committee. The NZ Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information has been appointed, a Standards leader appointment is imminent, and 2-3 other work stream leadership roles are in the pipeline).

The other phases are:

  • a delivery phase in Year 2
  • a leverage phase in Year 3.

The programme has been organised along the lines of work streams - to ensure effective governance structures and quality fundamental datasets, to facilitate a NZ Spatial Data Infrastructure and to lead geospatial standards efforts.

These four work streams correspond directly with the Geospatial Strategy’s four goals of while the other four work streams support the first four and address identified needs.

I emphasise here that the additional resourcing for Geospatial Strategy work won’t be to the detriment of ongoing LINZ core activities – quality will be maintained.

SDI opportunity

Work on a NZ Spatial Data Infrastructure (or SDI) was recommended strongly by the economics report. The points I want to make about this item of work are:

  1. The essence of a NZ SDI is a framework that facilitates connections between providers and users of geospatial information.
  2. The framework is an overarching concept within which the agencies involved can develop conventions, protocols and an architecture to facilitate open geospatial data (across government in the first place, but ultimately across the evolving geospatial community). The NZGO published guidance earlier this year to help agencies develop their own SDI data provider nodes.
  3. A SDI facilitates business at a national level – by:
    • Reducing costs
    • Improving decision-making
    • Improving efficiency
  4. Individual work streams (shown in blue in the slide) contribute – each does so incrementally – and the NZ Economy benefits substantially – over time.
  5. The SDI process is dynamic – it links participants with significant levels of policy and financial autonomy. The process also needs to be agile to allow input from emerging public-participatory technologies.
  6. LINZ as an operational agency must be at the forefront of SDI implementation… otherwise LINZ’s strategic leadership will be questioned. To this end a couple of months ago LINZ advertised an RFP for its own data provider node with a go-live date of mid 2011 (which fits with the previously outlined delivery phase of 2011 to 2012).
  7. We are aligning this work with the continuing spatial marketplace initiative under the ANZLIC and CRCSI umbrellas.

I’ll talk more now about the NZ node for the CRCSI.

CRCSI NZ node launched

The Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information needs to be seen against the background where both our governments are working steadily towards a Single Economic Market. The aim of this is to remove regulatory barriers to Trans-Tasman trade and create a more seamless Trans-Tasman business environment.

This is an environment where NZ SDI activities could be leveraged and NZ can contribute to, and benefit from, joint research projects.

LINZ’s decision to join the CRCSI reflects shared core values: Cooperation, Quality, Professionalism, Integrity, Innovation.

The previous spatial@gov conference was when I had a substantive discussion with key CRCSI people from Australia. It was also when I agreed that LINZ would become the CRCSI “anchor” participant in NZ and would lend our support for the CRCSI-2 proposal which was subsequently approved a month or so later.

Following on from that Mary Sue Severn was appointed in April this year to the position of NZ Director CRCSI within the NZ Geospatial Office.

CRCSI NZ update

The formal launch of the NZ CRCSI node was done in conjunction with an SDI workshop early in August – over 80 people attended.

Several mentioned this was the first time in a long time that government, industry and academia were given the opportunity to discuss a common problem and explore solutions together. Bruce Thompson (from Victoria’s Dept of Sustainability & Environment) & Kylie Armstrong (Landgate WA) also attended and provided an overview of ANZLIC’s ANZ Spatial Marketplace and related CRCSI work.

Five more workshops are in the planning phase on potential research topics that came out of the day.

Since the end of April there has been a high level of interest from potential participants in joining the CRCSI. There are five existing NZ private sector CRCSI participants and one major NZ university intends to become an Essential Participant in CRCSI. An Essential Participant has the highest level of influence on CRCSI Board compositions, projects and resulting IP.

LINZ’s plan to become CRCSI Essential Participant

LINZ is also working toward becoming a CRCSI Essential Participant.

Essential Participant status will:

  • further strengthen our Trans-Tasman relationships
  • allow NZ greater influence in CRCSI governance structures and strategic direction
  • help deliver positive outcomes for NZ project participants
  • contribute to healthier spatial industry and educational sectors.

Other NZ work

I want to mention some other relevant items that relate to the NZGO work streams:

  • NZGOAL which stands for the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework. The NZ Cabinet recently endorsed this framework for use by government agencies, ie the use of simple and easy to use Creative Commons licences for non-personal government information. Cabinet agreed that the most liberal licence should be the default option. I am also Chair of the Open Government Information and Data Re-Use Steering Committee. NZGOAL is seen by the Steering Committee as a very important component in making it easier to re-use government information. The Steering Committee is also working on a proposal for Cabinet which would direct agencies to pro-actively release non-personal government information as a routine process unless there are considerations such as national security or commercial-in-confidence.
  • The NZ State Services Commission agreed in July that the ANZLIC Metadata Profile will become the e-GIF (e-government interoperability framework) geospatial metadata standard. This is an important step in signalling to government agencies a recommended geospatial metadata profile to use. LINZ has been working closely with the Office of Spatial Data Management in Australia and ANZLIC National Office over resources to use the ANZLIC profile and over open source catalogue software for geospatial data discovery. We really appreciate the value of such collaboration – an example of seizing a Trans-Tasman opportunity!
  • LINZ has also been supporting Canterbury University in the development of a Masters in GIS programme. This is due to begin in 2011 and LINZ has approved sponsoring a scholarship for one of its staff to undertake the programme. Although the Geospatial Office has not been leading the work on NZGOAL and the Masters programme, it has contributed because they influence components of the SDI in a very real way – access, standards and capability.

Work levers

When you boil down NZ’s Geospatial Strategy work to its essence it really comes down to the fact that we are in the business of promoting desired behaviours.

There are really just three approaches, often implemented in sequence as needed – to persuade, incentivise and legislate. We have done just that, balancing incentives with policies and procedures as we continue to implement earlier approaches based on persuasion and encouraging accountability.

LINZ has recently also appointed a Principal Geospatial Policy Analyst who is working on papers for the Minister for Land Information around geospatial policy framework issues.

Other Trans-Tasman opportunities

I have already touched on the Trans-Tasman opportunities that are opening up via our new CRCSI relationship.

We value the connections we make through the well-established ANZLIC forum to become involved with initiatives such as the ANZ Spatial Marketplace and the ANZLIC Metadata Profile.

Lots of the unseen, extremely useful work also happens via groups under ANZLIC’s Intergovernmental Committee for Surveying and Mapping, which is now chaired by NZ’s Surveyor-General for two years. Examples include the review of Address standards and drafting of LiDAR elevation specifications – both of which are very relevant for local authorities in their geospatial work.

In August I spoke at a seminar in Wellington organised by SIBA NZ. It was also attended by SIBA Australia representatives and was a great opportunity to discuss areas of shared interest between the government and private sectors.

SSSC2011 – Wellington

I couldn’t finish without promoting the fact that Wellington is hosting another Trans-Tasman spatial opportunity - the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Conference in late November next year (that’s after the finals for the Rugby World Cup). The event is co-sponsored by TripleSI and the NZ Institute of Surveyors and the theme is: “Innovation in Action – Working Smarter.”

As a proud Wellingtonian I feel obligated to put in a quick plug for the event and hope you can join us. November is a great time of year to be in Wellington.

Summary – key messages

In summary, the key messages I want to leave with you today are these:

  • in a time of changing priorities, LINZ will still maintain the quality of its core activities
  • LINZ will champion the NZ Geospatial Strategy and deliver results from a challenging work programme
  • LINZ values highly opportunities to work together on Trans-Tasman spatial sector projects.

If I’m invited back to speak at the next spatial@gov conference in 2011, I intend to say that we have delivered on what we promised and we now have:

  • a LINZ data provider node
  • a geospatial gateway catalogue
  • at least 3 NZ-initiated CRCSI projects
  • at least 3 government agencies contributing to ANZLIC’s ANZ spatial marketplace work, and
  • an established framework for NZ’s key fundamental datasets.

Thank you again for inviting me along this year. I wish you all the best for a successful and stimulating conference.

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