NZ LIDAR mapping project gets first contracts

More than half of the country will gain detailed 3D maps for use in commercial and residential planning, as well as environmental management

The New Zealand Government has awarded the first of a series of contracts to gather 3D geographic data of more than half the country using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to create consistent digital 3D maps with very accurate elevation data.

Elevation data products created through the project will be freely available as open data through the LINZ Data Service, which has developed a specification for the data based on the US Geological Survey LIDAR Base Specification and the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM) LIDAR Acquisition Specifications and Tender Template.

The minister for land information, Eugenie Sage, said the resulting maps would enable planners and investors to make well-informed decisions requiring landscape data, irrespective of regional boundaries. “[This will be] particularly valuable in the agriculture and forestry sectors,” she said.

How the LIDAR mapping data would be used

The minister for regional economic development, Shane Jones, said the data would be particularly useful for the primary sector, enabling better understanding of impacts on water catchments. “It will also provide improved detail of soil mapping for better nutrient management, and comes with a much cheaper price tag than costly field surveys,” he said. “This data is also essential for better flood risk mapping, understanding the impacts of climate change, and improved environmental management.”

He said the data would be of particular interest to small forest owners, giving them access to information previously available only to larger growers.

The government said homeowners would have be able to accurately determine their properties' exposure to flooding with accurate local elevation data, rather than relying on generalised models. “This could be used in setting meaningful risk-based insurance premiums, and better informing property transactions,” it said.

Rex Graham, chairman of the Hawkes Bay Regional Council, said the LIDAR data would enable the creation of 3D models of the landscape that would support the region’s economic development. “The LIDAR information will be used for land management decisions, roading design, precise understanding of sea-level rise impacts, stormwater design, and geohazard mapping including ground surface change, faults, liquefaction and slips,” he said.

Southland Regional Council said the LIDAR data would enable it to better model coastal erosion, tsunami evacuation zones and landslide hazards. “For territorial authorities, the information will assist with planning for new infrastructure like roads as well as maintenance and renewal programmes for existing infrastructure such as water pipes and bridges.”

Environment Southland’s director of policy, planning and regulatory services, Vin Smith, said the data would help individuals and businesses make better decisions about residential and commercial development, renewable energy generation and better manage activities such as on-farm nutrients and precision forestry spraying.

Eight councils are participating in the LIDAR project

The project, announced in October 2018, is being jointly funded by the regional councils in the areas to be mapped and by the government, which will tip in $14 million over five years through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

In May 2019, the Government announced eight regional councils, in partnership with their territorial authorities and others, had applied for funding under the scheme.

On 3 March it announced Marlborough, Tasman and Hawkes Bay as the first councils to co-fund contracts with aerial data suppliers. Five more regions (Bay of Plenty, West Coast, Waikato, Canterbury and Southland) are in negotiations with suppliers.

The eight regions will gather LIDAR data over the next three years covering over half of New Zealand’s land area. Some regions will be done sooner; for example, the flights to gather the aerial survey data is expected to be finished in May, according to Hawkes Bay Council. The data will then be processed, with final results in March 2021.

The LIDAR project will be managed by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), the government department responsible for geographical information and surveying, land titles, and managing Crown land and property.

Stuart Crosby, vice-president of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), the body representing regional councils, said the funding would “smash the affordability problem” that prevented smaller councils from undertaking such mapping and make it cheaper for both the private and public sectors to access the high-quality elevation data needed for good decision making.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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