Archives For GIS

Come behind the scenes and into the world of Belgium born, Christchurch based, DOC Geospatial Analyst, Ann De Schutter.

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Dozens of rarely seen historic conservation maps have been gathered in a new exhibition at Conservation House in Wellington.

The man behind Mapping the Land, DOC GIS Analyst Matt Grose.

Matt Grose

Mapping the Land, which runs until 31 January, acknowledges the past, and celebrates cartography and map making at all scales. 

Today, we’ve got the man behind the exhibition, DOC GIS Analyst Matt Grose, sharing with us…

Maps are evocative creatures. People love the detail; love tracing journeys of days across inches of paper; reliving moments, experiences; retelling stories.

Maps are born of survey and marking, measurement and defining; they are the story of New Zealand; they record history.

Topographical Plan of Waitangi Treaty House Grounds.

Topographical Plan of Waitangi Treaty House Grounds, Northland, 1993

Maps help us work, define extents and plot resources. They are critical in managing our partnerships, giving confidence to communities and illustrating progress.

Maps are politics and poetry, diplomacy and emergency, recreation and comfort.

Crop from a map of Tararua Mountain System, 1936

Tararua Mountain System, 1936

Maps are colourful, delicate, subtle, detailed, precise.

Maps promise truth but often lie – sometimes on purpose.

Maps are a lot of things to a lot of people.

Crop from map of Puketi. Credit: A.N. Sexton.

Puketi Forest, Northland, 1939

In the face of the overwhelming saturation of digital information into our lives, I wanted to just pause for a moment and acknowledge what came before, what drives us now, and what we would do well not to forget. Maps don’t make themselves.

Legend for the Puketi Forest map.

Legend for the Puketi Forest map, created by A.N. Sexton

This exhibition started out with a simple thought, “Why don’t we take some of the maps that DOC has stored away in cabinets, get them out and put them on display?”.

Despite everything that’s occurred between then and now, that is still the essence of this exhibition—just some maps that look nice. Any greater theme is up to you.

It’s only a little exhibition, but I hope you can come along and get a kick out of it.

As well as maps, you’ll find interpretation, navigation and cartographic objects, and the opportunity for you to draw your own map of the world.

Mapping the Land | Free entry | Until 31 January 2014 | Foyer of Conservation House | 16-32 Manners Street | Wellington

Duane Wilkins, DOC’s Geospatial Services Manager.

Duane Wilkins

By Duane Wilkins, DOC’s Geospatial Services Manager

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies are used every day and everywhere and help us manage our world.

GIS creates maps, layer upon layer (pizza style!), showing relationships between people, places, and the environment. It can also help make some very cool games.

My children and their friends are mad on Terraria, WorldCraft and Kerbal Space Program—and they all use the GIS technology called GeoDesign.

Main photo: Boy playing computer game. Photo: Rob Allen | flickr. Three smaller photos underneath:  Screen shots of Terraria, DOC Maps and Kerbal Space Program.

Terraria, DOC Maps, and Kerbal Space Program
all use GIS technology

I had been trying to think about how I could tap into that youthful enthusiasm for computer games and turn it into something meaningful for DOC. International GIS Day gave me the excuse I needed.

Celebrate International GIS Day

Together with the rest of the New Zealand Natural Resource GIS Group I set about creating an event for Wellington’s Year 5–10 students and their teachers.

It’s going to be held on Thursday 21 November 2013 (International GIS Day) and will give kids a chance to learn about GIS through an interactive, hands on GIS experience. We’ll have video, computers, GPS devices and other activities.

This year we’re looking at how imagery from satellites is used to discover change over many years. My son and I are even building a huge model satellite for the event—we’ve studied the various designs and even talked with a scientist from NASA!

Duane's son Gideon making the satellite.

My son Gideon putting the finishing touches on our replica Landsat 8 satellite

Artist’s rendition of Landsat 8 in orbit. (NASA).

Artist’s rendition of Landsat 8 in orbit (NASA)

There will be giveaways, a sausage sizzle and the chance to take a look at one of New Zealand’s most environmentally friendly buildings.

Learn more about the GIS Day event

We’re on the lookout for a satellite designer!

As part of the celebrations, we’re running a satellite design competition for kids.

Bob, Bill and Jeb from SQUAD.

Kerbal Space Program is one of many games that use GIS technology

The team from SQUAD (developers of Kerbal Space Program) will help us judge the most creative satellite design.

Learn more about the satellite design competition for kids

GIS Day is all about helping us understand the role geography plays in our lives and the technologies we use to keep the country running.

Duane’s job is to make sure people have access to maps, and other tools to help them do more conservation work both inside and outside of DOC.


Every Monday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week we meet Spatial Analyst, Richard Earl:

Skipper Ritch!

At work…

Richard Earl.

Research and Development Spatial Analyst.

What kind of things do you do in your role?  
I drive a Geographic Information System (GIS), which is basically a computer mapping system. I model ecosystems and species distributions based on their known locations, and I also examine what Natural Heritage work DOC does and where. 

Without good geographical information, DOC can’t necessarily make good decisions about where we put our effort, and with ever-lowering budgets, it’s crucial we put our effort (as efficiently as possible) into the most important places and species we have. Our work is in building that geographical information and helping to integrate it into national systems, and to analyse it and understand it. So, mostly it’s panning around in maps on the computer, manipulating the tables behind the spatial data that’s on the maps, setting the computer to run analyses, then producing maps and tables of information from those analyses to provide information to the people who need it. We turn data into information. 

Also, sometimes I’m allowed out of my cage and I get to go to some amazing places to actually collect data—in the form of counting birds and checking traps and tracking tunnels and looking for radio tracked birds, but that’s only a couple of weeks a year, if I’m lucky.


What is the best part about your job?
I get to pan around the country looking at all our best spots (from above), perform interesting (and often challenging) analysis, and when I can get it—field work, usually counting birds in Fiordland.

Ready to go

What is the hardest part about your job? 
That’s a tricky one. Because I enjoy my job so much nothing ever seems very hard, or it is hard, but I’m enjoying it, so… um… finding the time to get everything done? 

What led you to your role in DOC?
I’ve always had a conservation bent, reflected in my university studies (Geography and Ecology undergrad, Environmental Science Masters) and involvement in environment groups and Trees For Canterbury (a charitable trust here in Christchurch—“growing trees and growing people”).

What was your highlight from the month just gone?
Working out time-saving ways of getting certain processes done, thereby getting through what would have been laborious work a lot quicker.

The rule of 3…

3 loves
My family, mountain biking on sweet, sweet native forest single track, (actually, pretty much ANY single track), and gooood music (and good beer).

Cycling through mud!

3 pet peeves
Idiots on the roads who have no respect for cyclists, ArcGIS crashing for no apparent reason, and the waste of resources I’m seeing every day as Christchurch is dismantled house by house with diggers ripping into houses that are full of beautiful native timbers that should be salvaged and reused.

3 things always in your fridge
Cheese, including standard blocks, parmesan, and often stinky blue ones. Beer, but only certain beers should be in the fridge, most good ones should just be in the cupboard. Pesto and/or hummus. 

3 favourite places in New Zealand
So many, but… Banks Peninsula (in particular the few remaining forest remnants, the spectacular coastline, the family bach at Little Akaloa, and of course the beaches), Fiordland, Waitutu and Poteriteri in particular. Also, Takaka and its surrounds (especially the DOC houses at Totaranui and Collingwood) and the localities they allow access to.

Favourite movie, album, book
I cannot possibly narrow it to one of each, so…

Movie(s): Dead Man—pretty much all of Jim Jarmusch’s movies in fact, and the Coen Brothers’ too.
Album(s): They change every few months, but most recently Wooden Heart by Listener and Sit Down, Man by Das Racist. My favourite artists in general are Prefuse73, Joanna Newsom, Roots Manuva, Coco Rosie, Boards of Canada, Diplo, Grizzly Bear, Pavement, Sonic Youth and Ladi6 etc.
Book(s): It’s hard to narrow it to one book—most recently, my best read has to be It’s All About The Bike by Robert Penn. My favourite authors include Richard Brautigan, Iain M. Banks, Paul Theroux, Jared Diamond, Martin Amis, and I’m also an avid reader of graphic novels (yep, comics). My favourites includes The BPRD and Hellboy series, plus anything by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (two absolutely brilliant Brazilian brothers).

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?
Don’t be such an idiot.

Overlooking Raupo

Who or what inspires you and why?
Uh oh, cheese alert 🙂 My Dad, because he’s just so damned knowledgeable in so many ways. My boys—their beautiful innocence inspires me to be a good person and to try my hardest to be a good role model to them. My partner Tracey, for being so amazing with our boys and for loving me. My workmates, each for their skills and knowledge that differ from mine. My boss Elaine, for just being so on to it, and John Leathwick who’s a bit of a guru in my profession (and I get to work with him!).

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A farmer. 
And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?
Doing what I’m doing but not at DOC? Otherwise, a farmer, but not in the traditional sense…  I envisage a self-sufficient permaculture farmlet with a backdrop of bush and perhaps a little forestry, with an integrated mountain bike park (also crossing into neighbouring lands seasonally). I’d grow food and maintain and ride and guide the trails. People would come to ride and we’d feed them really good food and maybe have some accommodation… possibly a small brewery too, crafting beer made from local malts and home-grown hops. I’m allowed to dream, aren’t I?

A lunch break at Long Point

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?
Definitely a bird. Maybe kea or a kaka, or falcon, but I also love the passerines too. The parrots for their smarts and fun, the falcons for their sheer speed and skill in the air, all of them for the beauty of the environment they live in and their ability to get around that environment so effortlessly. 

It always makes me jealous when I’m tromping through the undergrowth getting nowhere and they’re just cruising around up there laughing at me. Then again, a Hector’s Dolphin would be pretty cool too, or a fur seal

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?
Get out and enjoy it, treat it kindly and with respect, help out, plant more natives, kill some pests, and actively integrate New Zealand biodiversity back into your gardens and cities.

Every Monday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week we meet Spatial Information Management Officer, Wayne Tyson:

The ascent to Crater Lake, Mt Ruapehu

At work…

Name: Wayne Tyson

Position: Spatial Information Management Officer (GIS), Canterbury Conservancy Office.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I work primarily with creating maps and databases of spatial information. A lot of my work is involved with converting data from spreadsheets and tables into usable maps.

Recently I have been involved with Wildfire Threat Analysis which involves using GIS analysis tools to assess the likely threat of fire across Canterbury.

What is the best part about your job?

Meeting a bunch of people who are really passionate about their work and the contribution they make to the environment.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Trying to fit in all the projects that we are involved in.

Caving in Vietnam

What led you to your role in DOC?

I’ve always had a keen interest in the outdoors with a strong background in caving. Being skilled in GIS and working for DOC seemed to be the logical choice.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

The Canterbury Wildfire Threat Analysis project was a large collaboration of data inputs with support from a range of organisations. Creating some really useful fire threat data that will be used across Canterbury is pretty cool.

No big earthquakes was also good!

Exploring caves under the Nullarbor Plain

The rule of three…

Three loves

Apart from my wife and cats, the things I would list as three loves include:

  • Skiing (especially those really long runs in Canada)
  • Caving (although I don’t get too many chances since moving to Christchurch)
  • Good quality rugby games

Three pet peeves

  • New Zealand road rules
  • Campervans
  • Earthquakes right under my house

Three things always in your fridge

  • Beer (because I never drink it)
  • Cheese (because my cats love it)
  • One or two bottles of wine for unexpected friends who may drop around

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  • Cardrona in winter—the best ski field in the Southern Hemisphere
  • South Island’s West Coast is just truly spectacular
  • Tasman Glacier, my introduction to the New Zealand wilderness

    Getting a weather report in the Stirling Range

Favourite movie, album, book

  • The Castle—it introduced a great set of catch phrases to the Australian vocabulary: “Tell him he’s dreaming!”
  • Amarok by Mike Oldfield—one solid hour of amazing guitar and sound woven around a number of recurring themes.
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson—the only book I have sat down and read in one sitting from 6pm to 4am.

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Move to New Zealand now!

Who or what inspires you and why?

The people of Christchurch. Over the last year they have had to put up with so much and have come through with great strength and determination.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A Merchant Navy Officer. I spent three years at it before I realised it was not such a good social lifestyle.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?


If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

A cave weta so I could explore those caves that the humans can’t get into.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Having grown up in arid Western Australia and overpopulated Malaysia, I think most New Zealanders take their incredible environment for granted. This is one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Look after it.

Travelling to school in Penang, 1966

Every Monday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week we meet geographic information system (GIS) champion, Paul Hughes:

At work …

Name: Paul Hughes

Position: GIS Champion, Wellington Hawke’s Bay

Shark surveying in Fiji

Describe your role: GIS mapping and analysis locally and nationally.

What kind of work/projects are you currently involved in?

Operationalising Treaty Settlements and Biodiversity Information Management.

What led you to your current role in DOC?

Selling GIS systems to the oil exploration industry and to DOC.

Tell us about your 15 minutes of fame

Speaking in Charleston at the 2002 celebration of the final protection of the publicly owned West Coast native forests, and the end to government logging.

Kaka are ginga too

The rule of three…

Three loves

  • Life
  • My wife Jayne
  • My daughter Isabel

Three pet peeves


Working with the community on Mt Ngauruhoe

Three things always in your fridge

  • Mac’s beer
  • Plum sauce
  • Kapiti ice cream

Favourite movie, album, book

Book: It’s a toss up between Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and The Universal Heart by Stephanie Dowrick—both are journeys of the soul.

Movie: The Wizard of Oz, we are living it again!

Album: Malcolm McLaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra

Codfish Island Surf Club

Getting personal

What was your favourite birthday present as a kid?

My scooter.

What is your dream holiday location or activity and why? 

Ten day tramping trips at Christmas, as it takes the body to a state one seldom experiences.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Beach walking at Paekakariki.

Do you have a special skill/quirk/strange fact that people may not know about you?

I am a Civil Engineer, an expert tradescantia weeder and can pan gold in a billy lid.

What was the most useful thing that somebody once told you?

Follow your inner compass.

If there was a competition for best place in New Zealand where would get your vote?

The Olivine Ice Plateau.

Olivine Ice Plateau

And if there was one native species that ruled them all, what would be your pick?