New Zealand Walking Access Commission

Careful planning results in a new on-line guide being delivered on time (almost) and within budget.

Enhancing access to the outdoors by providing information

New Zealand Walking Access Commission logoCreating a highly innovative geographic information system to provide New Zealanders and overseas visitors with a unique and practical recreation resource has been a recent highlight for the New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

Established in 2008, the Commission was charged with the task of providing maps and information to the public to enhance their ability to access the outdoors.

“The mapping system reflects government policy to make government information readily available to New Zealanders and businesses and to make information economically useful,” says Chief Executive, Mark Neeson.

After public consultation and establishing legislation, it was up to the Commission as to how to go about presenting the information.

“Right from the outset, we knew we wanted that information to be online, and not be publishing hard copy maps,” he says.

“We decided that the best way to do so was to design a geographic information system using digital technology to show land open to public access layered with property boundaries and using topographic and aerial maps.

“We decided to outsource the design and building of the system and project management,” says Mr Neeson. “We knew we did not have the expertise to manage the project and hence sought and used professional advice.”

To us, being efficient means our services are providing value for money. Being effective is ensuring positive differences are made while achieving quantifiable outcomes.

The next phase involved implementing the website and, finally, more work has been done recently to enhance it further in response to user feedback.

The information used comes from a wide variety of different agencies, including Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation, and regional councils.

“We also use a mixture of information, some of which was private, such as aerial photography. We pulled it all together and made it publically available. And free.”

There is plenty of evidence to show the software is being used and appreciated. Receiving 250 hits a day, survey results have revealed that 97% of users found the system useful and would recommend it to others.

“Users are finding the site practical. It’s nation-wide, it’s straight up and gives people what they want. It’s the best information you can get,” says Mr Neeson. “We receive a lot of positive feedback from organisations who find the information useful, for example, the real estate sector, land surveyors.”

Although the project took longer to get up and running than expected, Mr Neeson says it came in under budget. He attributes this to careful planning at the outset and sticking to the original contract to avoid budget problems.

“The project methodology was very iterative and we were heavily involved all the way through. The final product was exactly what we expected.”

If he were to advise another small agency on developing information-based software, Mr Neeson would urge them to focus on clear process, careful and detailed planning, and development.

Based on an interview with Mark Neeson, Chief Executive, on 14 June 2012.

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