Local Government Magazine

New planning tool for councils

An online system providing councils with access to a historical image resource of bird’s eye view images of areas right across the country has just been launched.

RetroLens.nz is a historical image resource which holds hundreds of thousands of aerial images taken between 1936 and 2005.
The project was developed by the Local Government Geospatial Alliance (LGGA), a group represented by the geospatial section of New Zealand’s local authorities, with images provided by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).
The system provides a shared resource for councils to aid in future planning, as well as economic and environmental decision-making. The images are also freely accessible to the public.
The project is ongoing, with 150,000 images currently available on the system. By the time it’s complete in 2021, that number is expected to increase to 500,000.
Iain Campion, data and GIS team leader Environment Canterbury, heads up the project. Key partners include: Glen Clarkin, geospatial team leader Bay of Plenty Regional Council; Hellen Munro, GIS team leader Hawke’s Bay Regional Council; and Gill Lawrence, spatial information manager Waikato Regional Council.
Gill notes that until recently it was frequently a long and difficult process to find historic images that councils needed to support their work.
Iain says that by studying historical images councils can see changes in coastal areas and land use. “We can identify where hazardous substances have once been used or stored and identify special features, including geothermal vegetation and archaeological sites. On top of this, the system can be used as a resource for cultural research.”
Liz Tupuhi, Waikato Regional Council’s land and soil scientist, sees all sorts of opportunities from a science point of view.  “Through the images we can see stream channels and understand whether today’s drain is yesterday’s meandering stream. We can see erosion scars and trace these through the years. We can see forest fragments and perhaps even work backwards to establish what they might have been.”

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