What is Geospatial Information?

Geospatial information is information describing the location and names of features beneath, on or above the earth's surface. At its simplest this can mean the basic topographical information found on a map, but also includes different location-related datasets combined into complex layers that show information such as land use and population density.

Geospatial information supports a wide range of business, government and community activities, and the use and re-use of this information has significant productivity-related benefits.

The terms "geospatial information", "spatial information" and "location-based information" are often used interchangeably.

Past & present applications

An early example of basic geospatial information being combined with other layers of information dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when a British physician, John Snow, plotted individual cases of cholera on a map during an outbreak of the disease in London. This enabled him to trace the source of the outbreak—a contaminated well.

Today, the technologies and systems that enable geospatial information to be used are evolving rapidly, and the range of applications for this kind of information is ever-expanding.

See some examples of organisations who are using geospatial information to solve business problems.

The need for collaboration

Government topographic data forms a common base layer for a large number of location-related datasets used by both government and non-government organisations. The New Zealand government has invested heavily in the collection of geospatial information, but at present using this information to its full potential is often difficult. For example, linking together seperately collected pieces of information relating to the same location is sometimes impossible because of the different ways that the location is described.

The New Zealand Geospatial Office's goal is to overcome these issues by promoting the collection, management and use of geospatial information to build a common base of data that can be used by many people and organisations for many applications.

Find geospatial data

Geodata.govt.nz is New Zealand's catalogue of publicly-funded geospatial data. You can use this service to find out how to access New Zealand's geo-referenced information resources.