Local Government Magazine

Mapping out the future

Chris Weir can imagine a time when, maybe 10 years from now, there may be five local government mega-centres beavering away on the GIS smarts needed for local authorities. It’s a shared services idea that, to his mind, marks the natural evolution of a combination of technologies and expertise that is already bringing astonishing insights into how things work.

Take the housing market, for example. GIS expertise underpins a newly-launched app called QV homeguide which, at the swipe of a finger, lets buyers, sellers and the downright nosey ones among us check out for free the value of an individual property, see recent nearby sales, suss out the demographics of the area and even eyeball local schools.

Motivated buyers can then shell out their dollars for more information such as land values, building   ages, floor areas, natural hazards and title details.

QV homeguide, “New Zealand’s first independent augmented reality property app”, is marketed by ratings and valuation specialist Quotable Value, which in turn owns 40 percent of CoreLogic where Chris works as its spatial architect.

The app relies on the latest CoreLogic data which is sourced from a wide range of places including local authorities, Trade Me and real estate reports. In Chris’ view of the future, local authorities may one day start to pool their GIS expertise with, for example, Auckland and Waikato perhaps joining forces and – the current debate around Wellington amalgamation notwithstanding – councils centred in and around our nation’s capital doing likewise. He’s not sure whether these mega-centres would be run by local or central government.

Either way, he says they could provide the mass momentum for some even more clever developments. Why not, for example, go one step further from virtual 2D representations and build 3D models that allow people to look inside the structures of buildings? That way service providers could see where cables are in buildings – or where others could be laid. Dollars would be saved and organisations “could crack the return on investment from GIS that has been promised for many years”.

Such ideas must be a world away from Chris’ earliest career experiences as a Lands & Survey cartographer back in 1982.

He is now one of only 10 people in New Zealand accredited under the internationally-recognised Geographic Information Science Professional Asia Pacific certification – one of the highest possible stamps of approval for people involved in spatial information and cartography.

While the end results may provide exciting insights, his team’s current work is based on painstaking attention to detail. Sixty to seventy percent of local authorities provide address changes to CoreLogic on a regular basis. These may include anything from details of new subdivisions to renumbering of streets. It’s CoreLogic’s job to unpick the anomalies, working out, for example, whether the physical street address provided (such as 38A) is the same as its district valuation roll address (which may be 38 unit 1).

“Marrying up the real world with the legal version can be quite time-consuming,” says Chris, “but it has flow-on effects to our products. If somebody’s selling a property we can link the addresses together.”

An early heads-up on plans to create a new subdivision must be gold dust to companies supplying equipment such as cables, for example, who sometimes need two or three months’ advance warning to get product into the country. By including such data on its pre-physical plans, CoreLogic can help ensure that when a contractor starts digging, pipes can be put down and cables shot through with minimal delay.

This article was first published in the June 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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