Open data portal

Open data portal shares outdoor access data

GIS analyst Julian Hitchman hopes that, by sharing public access datasets, the Walking Access Commission can help people improve public access in New Zealand. 

Hitchman leads a Commission project to create an open data portal. This allows people to see and download its flagship dataset of public access areas. The dataset includes reserves, esplanade strips, esplanade reserves, public access easements and walkway easements. It will also include links to other key data providers, whose information is displayed on the Commission’s mapping system – the Department of Conservation's public conservation land and LINZ’s cadastral information.  

Hitchman says the Commission gets regular requests from people who want to download the data on our mapping system. These include university researchers and students, mapping and data enthusiasts, and people who want to use the data on their mapping applications. 

The process has been a complicated one of examining and configuring the data in a way that is easy for people to use and understand. Hitchman’s team has spent significant time stripping it of extraneous information. They have also been building and developing the website itself, which is now live for anyone to use and will be continually improved over time. 

"The main reason we developed this website is to meet government standards on open data," says Hitchman. "We want to provide as much data as possible, free to anybody to use if they choose." 

People trust the Commission's mapping data. It is the most comprehensive dataset of public access in New Zealand. People who are enthusiastic about public access to the outdoors will be keen to use it. 

“This puts the tools in ordinary people's hands,” says Hitchman. "It’s more transparent and open.” 

He warns that the data, which comes from third-party sources, will not be without small errors. Data is always changing - it is impossible to ensure it is always accurate and comprehensive. 

"But it is the best we've got at the moment and we’re constantly improving it. It's better to have it out there than nothing at all." 

It enables people to make meaningful analyses and do their own work on public outdoor access in New Zealand. And, importantly, how we can improve that access.  

"We are looking forward to seeing and sharing what people create."