New partnership to smooth access to New Zealand’s environmental information

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Major environment-focused Crown Research Institutes GNS Science, Landcare Research, and NIWA are joining forces with the New Zealand Geospatial Office to harmonise systems for storing, categorising and accessing vital information on New Zealand's environment.

The move will significantly lift the ability of scientists, research agencies, and other end users to access and share information, reducing duplication of effort and enhancing cooperation.

The partnership is based on an information sharing system known as Spatial Information Services Stack (SISS), developed by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). SISS enables information managed in local institutional archives to be accessed by other agencies, including those in other countries, using a common information access architecture based on open information standards. The system has been deployed successfully in Australia via AuScope, where many Australian agencies and research organisations share and deliver environmental information.

In New Zealand, environmental information is collected and used by a range of agencies including regional councils, district councils, government departments, State Owned Enterprises, and Crown Research Institutes. At present, data management and delivery methods vary significantly between agencies, making sharing of information and cooperation very difficult.

The New Zealand Geospatial Office is building a national spatial data infrastructure framework, which the SISS would become a part of. A spatial data infrastructure (SDI) facilitates the connections between important sources of information, and allows people to find and access them – much like roading infrastructure connects important locations .Connecting this information could add a further $500 million a year in productivity benefits and generate an extra $100 million in government revenue.

"Adopting a common information sharing model will unlock a vast amount of environmental information and save New Zealand a significant amount of money currently wasted on information searches," says Jochen Schmidt, Chief Scientist, Environmental Information, at NIWA. "It will enable a new understanding of New Zealand's environment by combining information sources."

For example, an environmental manager at a local authority wishes to understand how water quality in a river is affected by catchment land use, in order to manage stream health. An interoperable information sharing system based on SISS technology will enable him or her to access all relevant environmental information sources generated by a multitude of organisations working in the catchment, including soil layers, land use change, historic land use information, and climate data –at the click of a mouse.

Combining the data will allow the manager to understand the catchment and make an informed decision on which measures need to be introduced to optimise land and water use, while maintaining environmental health in the catchment.

On 22 November, NIWA will host specialists from CSIRO, along with system architects, information practitioners and web service creators from a range of New Zealand agencies, at a workshop to learn about SISS.

"This is a first step towards a new era of information sharing in New Zealand," says Jochen Schmidt.

For comment, contact:

Jochen Schmidt
Chief Scientist, Environmental Information, NIWA
Tel: 03 343 8058
Mob: 027 298 5886

John Callan
Communications Manager
GNS Science
Tel: 04 570 4732
Mob 027 440 2571

Fran Lovell
Senior Communications Advisor
Land Information New Zealand
Tel: 64 4 460 0572
Mob: 027 278 3968