2016 Eric Pyle on Daltons Track Marlborough

What's missing on our maps?

By Eric Pyle, Chief Executive

So how complete is the Walking Access Mapping System (WAMS)? When I had only been in this role a few months, a user outlined to me the amount of missing access data in the Nelson area. I took the views on board and this year we are running a project looking at how complete WAMS is.

Our initial work has surprised me. For example, of the 4000+ esplanade strips registered on titles under the Resource Management Act 1991, WAMS is showing less than 1000. There are hundreds of kilometres of marginal strips (under Part 4a of the Conservation Act) that we are currently unable to display. DOC is aware of thousands of easements to public conservation lands that are not digitally captured, therefore cannot be shown on WAMS, some (though not all) of which will provide for public access.

So how are we working out what data is missing? The answer is a combination of methods. In the process of moving to the digital era all titles were digitised. And it is the title that indicates whether there is public access available or not. By doing string searches on the title, for example, for the words “esplanade strip” we can identify whether there is some form of public access on a property. Then we can see whether that information is displayed on WAMS. Not an easy process. LINZ has a coding system that we also use.

Currently LINZ is scoping a major upgrade to the digital property system – called the Advanced Survey and Title System (ASATS). We are working with LINZ to ensure that ASATS has a much better coding system for access. But that won’t get over the digital back-capture of paper records or titles where it simply says that access is provided for under Part 4a of the Conservation Act along qualifying waterbodies, which have yet to be accurately defined on the property.

Within the next few months we aim to understand how much data is missing from WAMS. Then we can develop a plan to capture that data. At this stage I can only guess at the time frames to get WAMS close to complete.

But data is only one part of the picture. We have heard through our various discussions with organisations, groups and individuals that people want information about where they can access the outdoors. From a personal perspective I have found it very frustrating finding good information about tracks and trails that I can do with my family including the family dog.  A walk involves looking at the DOC website, the NZWAC website (for Walkways), Greater Wellington’s website, Porirua City Council, Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council… You get my point.

The Walking Access Act (which governs our work) talks about information on access to the outdoors, not just data on access to the outdoors.

Later this year the Commission will launch a new website. It will have a national tracks and trails database that the public can use to find information on accessing the outdoors. Over time we hope that this database will be filled out by councils and it will harvest data from a range of sources. Our aim is for people to obtain the information they require to plan enjoyable journeys across the land and to their special places, to enjoy and experience te mauri o te hīkoi.

Changes to WAMS

WAMS is a data-dense product. A comment we often hear is “can’t you make it simpler?”. So we have tried and want feedback on what we have done. Please keep your comments coming as we seek to improve the information and data that the Commission is providing.