Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has carried out an investigation into New Zealand’s bathymetry, the study of underwater depth of lakes or ocean floors.

The goal of this investigation was to gain a complete understanding of New Zealand bathymetry to inform the future development and coordination of this fundamental data theme. It involved a stocktake of New Zealand bathymetry, a review of its economic benefits and developing a set of options with recommendations for the strategic direction of bathymetry in New Zealand.  


Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is working to grow the value created by location information. Decisions using this information already add $1.2 billion to New Zealand’s economy and LINZ has a 10 Year Vision to grow this value.

LINZ is now looking at the potential for New Zealand to get greater value from bathymetric data. This is used for developing the nautical charts that support maritime safety; conserving our shorelines and waters; managing fisheries, and identifying undersea resources like minerals.

But despite its importance, New Zealand has lacked a full picture of the extent and location of the bathymetric data held by government and the private sector. LINZ’s New Zealand Bathymetry Investigation aims to create a better understanding of this data so it can be managed for even greater value.


The New Zealand Bathymetry Investigation has found there is real potential for leadership and coordination of bathymetric data to bring significant benefits for New Zealand. There is currently significant gaps in the availability of bathymetric data and that there is little or no coordination of bathymetry across New Zealand. These issues mean that this data cannot meet its potential to contribute to New Zealand both socially and economically.

Key findings include:

  • The marine environment is an important asset for New Zealand that provides extensive benefits to the country.
  • In 2002 the marine economy contributed $3.3 billion (3% of total GDP) to the total economy ($115 billion).
  • Bathymetric data is information about the morphology of underwater terrain and is derived from measurements of the depth of lakes and oceans. It is a key asset which supports New Zealand’s marine economy.
  • The need for, and the use of bathymetric data in New Zealand is widespread. 66 of the 71 stakeholders that responded to LINZ’s bathymetry questionnaire used bathymetry in their business.
  • At least $20 million per annum is spent on collecting bathymetric data through hydrographic and bathymetric surveys
  • There are noticeable gaps in the coverage of bathymetric data (even in priority areas), up to 70% of New Zealand’s waters are unmapped to a high resolution.
  • There is little coordination of effort in New Zealand to streamline the acquisition and dissemination of bathymetric data
  • There are a range of sectors in the New Zealand economy where marine spatial data is vital to decision making for example:
    • shipping
    • fishing and aquaculture
    • offshore minerals, and
    • government and defence.
  • Review of international literature shows:
    • return on investment for having hydrographic services between 1: 3 and 1:9, and
    • return on investment for having good bathymetric data provision between 1:2 and 1:6.
  • Better coordination of bathymetric data in terms of acquisition and dissemination could have a considerable impact on New Zealand’s marine economy

As part of their investigation, LINZ created a glossary of bathymetry terms.  


The investigation has made three recommendations for how the coordination and sharing of bathymetric data can be improved. LINZ will be sharing these with those involved in bathymetry in New Zealand, and discussing potential actions with these organisations.

1. It is recommended that there is greater coordination of bathymetry acquisition and dissemination in New Zealand.

  • A number of quick wins have been identified which could be implemented to improve coordination and bathymetric data.
  • Initially, work should be carried out to distinguish where coordination would most benefit the sector.
  • Coordination would build on existing coordination and involve stakeholders working together to decide the best course of action.

2. It is recommended that all crown funded data collected should be made public.

  • Public agencies need to work together to identify all the data that can be made publically available and then make it easily discoverable and available.

3. It is recommended that the long term goal for bathymetry in New Zealand should be to develop a freely available national bathymetry model

  • Bathymetry stakeholders should agree on the specifications for a national bathymetry model and work together to develop and deliver a suitable product which can be used across the sector.


Last Updated: 5 October 2015