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January/February 2016: A Royal Rose Cushion

Craft article and original tapestry pattern for Creative with Workbox Magazine. Issue 153.


December 2015: Shoot for the Moon


November 2015: I've been busy making a new website and updating the news for the Independent Research Association of New Zealand. Check it out at http://www.iranz.org.nz/

See IRANZ's latest enewsletter: Connections. With a round up of research news from New Zealand's independent science sector


November 2015: Cancer sniffing bears


October 2015: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in practice


September 2015: Unpacking the Universe


August 2015: Pasta annihilation

Something a bit different. Yes, I know it's antipasto, but that doesn't work for a particle physics joke, does it?


Queen Elizabeth rose tapestry. Credit: Louise Thomas

August 2015: A right royal tapestry

The Queen Elizabeth rose is my favourite. Blousy big pink blooms present themselves mostly in long-stemmed clusters – like chummy little ballerinas, who had dressed themselves with varying success and then can’t go anywhere without their mates. This new pattern is available as a nine-page PDF for NZ$6.90.


July 2015: League of Lock Pickers
It's one of the more unusual commissions I've taken over the years; the June/July 2015 issue of The Shed magazine is featuring a group of Wellingtonians who like to get together to pick locks for fun. They are mainly IT security specialists who have developed an interest in physical security (and finding the flaws in it) as an intellectual pastime. As one of them puts it, "You are solving a puzzle where you can’t see all the pieces".


Allan Wilson Centre
2014 Annual Report

I was pleased to help the Allan Wilson Centre with their annual research report at the end of 2014. I'm very disappointed the Government has not renewed their funding this year and they will close at the end of 2015.


Imaging evolution: Mathematics of life


Marsden Fund winners review:

When genomes collide
The adaptive potential of small populations
Use it or loss it: flight-loss in insects
Evolution of cancer


Biotech Learning Hub Science News

December 2014: Mutating genes to detect cancer
Medical researchers from the UK, the US and Canada have developed a new tool that identifies mutating genes to detect the early stages of oesophageal cancer.


Science Learning Hub
science news
Science news for ages 12 to 16 years

GPS Satellite. Credit: NASA

December 2014: Quantum Clocks
Having the right time is unbelievably important for technologies that involve positioning and navigation such as global positioning systems and space navigation or for synchronisation in the world of high-frequency frenzied financial trading. To get it all exactly right, an international team of physicists is proposing a network of atomic clocks linked at the quantum level, which they say would be more accurate and stable than any individual atomic clock on Earth.


New geospatial strategy for New Zealand

First published by Position Magazine (Australia) October/November 2007

By Louise Thomas

Radical changes are afoot in New Zealand ’s geospatial landscape. In April 2007, a New Zealand Government Cabinet Committee approved a new geospatial strategy to improve user knowledge of and access to the geospatial assets owned, maintained or used by government for the benefit of the New Zealand geospatial industry. The changes when implemented will see a robust governance structure for the industry with less fragmentation and duplication of effort by various organisations. Geospatial data will be collected to agreed standards and formats for use by many, and Web-based technology will also be put in place to ensure that accessibility of geospatial information is easy, timely and relevant. In addition, historic geospatial content will be appropriately preserved and protected.

Since the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy was approved, a New Zealand Geospatial Office has been established to co-ordinate the strategy, evaluate its implementation, and provide administrative and programme support to a Geospatial Executives Group. This group is currently made up of chief executives from both local and central government and initially chaired by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) Chief Executive, Brendan Boyle.

David Loubser, Acting Director of the newly established New Zealand Geospatial Office says it is a strategy whose time has come. The strategy recognises an increasing reliance on geospatial information for a wide range of activities including emergency services, national defence, utilities, resource management, biosecurity, and economic development. The strategy directly involves all tiers of government, crown entities and the geospatial industry as a whole.

 ‘There is an increasing awareness across all levels of government of geospatial information and technology. I call it the ‘Google Earth phenomenon’; suddenly people are a lot more aware of things spatial. So it is playing an increasing role and Cabinet has certainly identified that. With that was an increasing awareness that a lot of money was being spent on developing geospatial datasets without the coordination that hopefully the strategy will provide. The taxpayer has been footing the bill for that duplication of effort.’

To date New Zealand ’s geospatial information has been developed on an almost ad hoc and independent basis by various public agencies and the private sector. Datasets have an intellectual property value associated with them, but the concerns of lost revenue by commercial entities, such as Crown Research Institutes, have been far outweighed by the concerns about the lack of coordination in the management of the public sector’s geospatial resources, resulting in higher costs, fragmentation and duplication of effort.

‘Another focus of the new policy is linking in with the broader geospatial industry. We want to ensure that what the government is investing in, in terms of its geospatial information, can be built on by the geospatial industry as part of a philosophy to improve the data value – that is add to existing data for the economic and public benefit of New Zealand.

‘This is a key thrust, to make sure what we’re doing is used throughout government. However, the strategy I must stress is not just a government strategy it is an all of New Zealand strategy.  We will make sure there is value in what we are doing.’

The strategy brings together several existing initiatives such as the Geo Portal Project, the National Address Register project (NAR), the New Zealand Government Geospatial Metadata Standard (NZGMS), and the Metadata Harmonisation Project (harmonisation of geospatial metadata standards between New Zealand and the Australian Government).

‘There are a number of existing initiatives that come into the new strategy, and there will be a number of new initiatives. The strategy will provide a framework and a method for prioritising these initiatives, we have a lot of initiatives on the table and more coming in to the Geospatial Office.

‘One of the things we will be ensuring is interoperability. That there are fixed standards so that things can be shared with the minimum of fuss. Interoperability is one of the four main cornerstones of the strategy.’

As well as ‘interoperability’, the strategy lists its other three cornerstones as ‘data’, ‘accessibility’, and ‘governance’. David says there are key things to achieve with each of these cornerstones.

The data cornerstone aims to capture, preserve and maintain fundamental (i.e. priority) geospatial datasets, and set guidelines for non-fundamental geospatial data. ‘With data, for instance, one of the first work programmes we are implementing is looking at our fundamental datasets. Seeing what we’ve got, seeing where the duplications are, and seeing where the gaps are.’

Interoperability means that geospatial datasets, services and systems owned by different government agencies and local government can be combined and reused for multiple purposes.

 ‘With interoperability, we need to look at standards and that they are being implemented - things such as metadata standards and various interoperability standards. Some of these standards will be mandatory and some may be optional.’

Accessibility means that government geospatial information and services can be readily discovered, appraised and accessed.

 ‘Accessibility links in quite nicely with interoperability because you need to have the metadata and the standards right. There is also a need to have certain policies right within government, thing like intellectual property need to be worked on. There is work underway to get these policies sorted out.’

Despite any IP issues David says that the Geospatial Office has unanimous support to implement the strategy. What an agency, such as a Crown Research Institute, might lose in making a particular dataset less restricted across the industry, they make up for by having access to data which they may previously have had to source by themselves.

‘At the moment there is a huge willingness by everyone involved to make this work. And I think they are seeing the potential economic opportunities of getting this strategy right. It’s a balancing act, there are still a lot of negotiations which need to happen, but I must stress there is a huge willingness by everybody at the moment.’

 ‘The governance is one of the more advanced areas and there we are looking at setting up the structures to manage the strategy. This has been done to a large degree.

‘Getting the fora right to make sure we are reaching the right audience is still an issue. For instance, there is a part in the strategy to ensure the industry is represented at the governance level, but this is a bit of a tricky problem and one we are working on at the moment to identify who is ‘the industry’. It is not only the vendors and data suppliers; anyone who uses geospatial knowledge is potentially the industry. We’ve got to include the Crown Research Institutes, and various other agencies. Local government is another challenge. Who represents local government when you have 80 odd different local government bodies? You need to find a voice for all of them without having them all sitting around a table which would be impossible. So governance is about making sure we are reaching the right people.’

David promises that plans within the strategy will roll out in a timely manner.

‘In the relatively short term, six months to a year, we plan to get some ‘big wins’ out. It is very important that we are seen to be achieving what we’ve set out to achieve. We have to report back to the presiding Ministerial Group (Ministers for Land Information and Information Technology) in September 2007. And we want to be able to go back to them with some positive direction and some things that we’ve managed to achieve. What these are depends on what we prioritise in our work programme. There are one or two things that immediately jump to mind. For instance, there are two projects currently underway looking at all of government’s satellite imagery. One is looking at very high resolution satellite imagery and that is being driven by the Fire Service and Defence, and there is a second satellite imagery project which is slightly coarser spatial resolution but higher spectral resolution which is being driven by the whole carbon accounting process through the Ministry for the Environment.

‘In terms of when will the information be accessible and available to the ‘person on the street’, I would say we are looking at two to five years to make strong headway on our vision. That said, in that time frame there will be other ongoing developments which will be benefiting the geospatial industry.’

Although the Geospatial Office is currently hosted by LINZ , David stresses that the office is independent. ‘This is an all of government initiative and it does not report to LINZ . It reports to the GEG (Geospatial Executive Group).’

Copies of Understanding our geographic information landscape: A New Zealand geospatial strategy can be downloaded from http://www.linz.govt.nz/publications/geospatial-strategy-2007/nz-geospatial-strategy-2007.pdf  (PDF 1.5MB)

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Site last updated: 1 February, 2016.
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