Blog written by Nick Dragunow, Graduate GIS Consultant
The Esri Regional User Conference is something of a yearly travelling roadshow for Kiwi GIS professionals. Organised by the NZ Esri Users Group, this month-long voyage across the nation (and beyond to Suva, Fiji) provides a forum for Esri users to present their most innovative work.
Open Data was a major theme this year, with several organisations releasing new and improved data portals to the public. Change is in the air, with a number of exciting technical improvements presented by Eagle – learn about them here: http://www.eagle.co.nz/blog/2017-esri-regional-user-conferences-its-wrap
If you missed the Auckland RUC you’re in luck – we’ve summarised the presentations below. If you’re too busy to tackle the list, be comfortable in the knowledge that the venue was lovely, the presentations were well received, and the speakers were adequately compensated with applause and post-conference drinks!
The Auckland Airport GIS team consistently present interesting work. Last year it was a methodology for finding and eliminating the breeding sites of potentially disease-carrying mosquitos, a major health hazard for international carriers. This year we learned of the behind the scenes work involved in selecting the location of a new runway. The sound levels experienced by neighbouring suburbs were estimated via a complex, research-backed GIS model, allowing the airport to select sites with the lowest possible impact on residents.
Amit’s hilariously deadpan presentation followed his implementation of a toolset for tracking road cones lost or abandoned by work crews. Crowdsourcing applications, web apps, and dashboards were produced to connect the public with the companies in charge of cone collection – a great example of crowdsourced solutions and positive public engagement.
The DoC open data program has been enhanced by the release of an Esri-based tool for making existing cloud-hosted data publicly accessible in any number of popular formats. Open data is becoming a major focus for the organisation, says Neil, and a number of exciting programs are in the works, including a dataset that would track the availability of hut bunks as they’re booked.
Some months ago, Claire and the Healthy Waters team from Auckland released a set of Story Maps detailing the current state of watersheds in the Auckland region (in conjunction with Interpret). With gigabytes of previously internal data, the sites provide a visual, content-heavy plan for Auckland’s future, and reveal just how much effort is involved in watershed planning.
GIS In Conservation are a major force for good in the NZ charity space. Parker discussed the organisation and some of their more recent work – details can be found at www.nzgic.org. If you have any interest in providing your services to a good cause, GIC are the ones to speak to!
Unitec are working on a new Bachelor’s Degree for the Spatial industry in New Zealand. Built in consultation with major public and private players across the nation, the degree looks to modernise the way GIS and surveying are taught to New Zealand students, and ensures an easy transition into the industry.
Rather than discussing a specific tool or its implementation, Hamish took a step back and laid out a framework for determining what users want from open data. Too often we release data that we, as experts, would like to use, and often in formats that aren’t useful or accessible to the public. A familiar face at GIS conferences, Hamish continues to guide the industry towards often much needed self-reflection.
GNZ (previously GEOINT) are the designated cross-branch spatial support specialists for the NZ Defence Force. Richard spoke about the organisation’s disaster relief efforts and the unique experience of using Esri technology from within military facilities with no connection to the internet (to prevent hostile data breaches) – a security concept called an ‘air gap’. He also mentioned an organisational interest in providing open data, mirroring DoC, Stats NZ, and the Department of Internal Affairs, all of whom are dedicated to opening their data warehouses.
Youth Search and Rescue have embraced GIS whole-heartedly, says Steve, with maps and spatial tools offering a path for the upskilling of members and serving an important role in pre-planning and managing rescue operations. The uptake of drones was particularly interesting, with junior volunteers embracing ‘eye-in-the-sky’ capabilities to cut down search times in inaccessible environments.